It’s an issue that’s affecting small towns and large cities all across the country. As residential neighborhoods and shopping outlets have moved into suburban locations, urban cores have often been neglected. Empty storefronts and sparse populations are all that remain of what had once been vibrant centers of commerce, the arts and community life.

To help in reversing this trend, the Concept Gallery sponsored The Boost Challenge – a collaborative effort with the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The program enlisted the creative energies of 120 sophomore students to explore how the broad array of fabrics and materials offered by Glen Raven could be used to create new identities for towns and cities and help encourage the resurgence of commerce and social life in these neglected areas.

The students’ assignment was to create a new look for downtown Burlington, N.C., the headquarters city for Glen Raven. For the Boost Challenge, the students were provided background information and images of downtown Burlington and asked to conceptualize how they would use materials from Glen Raven to create a new brand identity for the area that would invite investments and visitors. The resulting designs were presented in two- and three-dimensional formats.

From more than 50 submissions, a team from Glen Raven selected 10 finalists and an industry panel made the final selection of a winner and two honorable mentions. Several of the top designs make up the latest exhibit in the Concept Gallery, illustrating the type of fresh thinking that the Concept Gallery hopes to inspire through materials innovation.