While boating may appear to be a male dominated sport, research studies show that it’s women who often drive buying decisions for watercraft purchases and upgrades. With this bit of consumer research in hand, Glen Raven recently sponsored a Marine Design Challenge, asking fashion design students at N.C. State University to create boating designs with the female consumer in mind.

“We selected fashion design students for two reasons – they are in close contact with the latest trends in fashion and they are for the most part new to boating so they started with a blank slate,” said Paige Mullis, director of the Concept Gallery at Glen Raven, a leading supplier of performance fabrics. “The students were given full access to all of the products available through Glen Raven and challenged to develop new ways of using these products to make the boating experience more appealing to women.”

Students were briefed by Bill McDaniel, marine market manager for Glen Raven’s Sunbrella fabrics, and Vince Hankins, industrial business manager for Sunbrella, who provided background on the boating industry. Students also visited Glen Raven’s Concept Gallery at corporate headquarters in Glen Raven, N.C., to sample a vast array of products available through Glen Raven, and they met with members of the Sunbrella design team at Glen Raven, which is headed by Gina Wicker, design and creative director.

“We were attracted to this project because it gave our fashion design students an entirely new type of experience working in an entirely different environment,” said Nancy Webster, practicum professor at N.C. State.  “These types of experiences are essential to our students in providing opportunities to work in real world business environments.”

The fashion design students stepped up to the challenge by detailing a broad array of innovative ideas for boating, including movie screens above and below deck, trampolines for diving off of a boat into the water, modular deck seating, changeable wall panels, collapsible storage boxes and many more. Each of the teams focused on features that would appeal to female consumers and their families in enhancing their enjoyment of the boating lifestyle.

“I saw many ideas that I will incorporate into my design work in boating,” said Faith Roberts, owner of Banner Canvas and one of four industry judges who selected the final winners. “My customers will benefit from the designs coming out of the Marine Challenge, which are applicable for my boating market.”

Joining Roberts on the judges’ panel were John Greviskis, executive producer of Ship Shape TV; Mike Erickson, CEO/Owner at Canvas Designers; and Steve Callahan, vice president of materials for Chris-Craft Corporation. The winning team included N.C. State students Morgan Green, Lauren Michelakis and Caroline Cox.

“The Marine Design Challenge was a tremendous venue for bringing forward the ideas of young people to improve the boating experience,” Callahan said. “The Marine Design Challenge is the type of activity that we need to keep us looking forward and remaining on the cutting edge of this industry.”

Winners of the Glen Raven Marine Design Challenge were, left to right, N.C. State students Morgan Green and Lauren Michelakis, and far right Caroline Cox. Paige Mullis, Glen Raven concept development director, third from left, and Nancy Webster, N.C. State University practicum professor, directed the program. Also shown are teams at work near the half-way point in the competition.

Hear what industry judges had to say about the Marine Design Challenge.

View an overview of the Marine Design Challenge.