The Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, boasts the following motto: “Be prepared.” The motto has transformed to drive each troop throughout the country to help out wherever they are needed, and to be willing to serve and complete tasks proficiently. For Nidhi Bhasin, a SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and former Girl Scout, she, along with two other FIT students, Zhuo Ran (Jenny) Feng, and Melissa Posner, returned the favor of helping out the Girl Scouts during their time of need. For the first time in two decades, the Girl Scouts sought out assistance to redesign their uniforms and other clothing merchandise to better reflect fashion trends of today for their young female change makers. FIT answered the call, and offered the expertise of student designers, faculty mentors, and their DTech Lab, with the goals of modernizing the uniform and providing clothing options for everyday life.
What drew the Girl Scouts to the FIT DTech Lab was its history of helping well-known brands and retailers with creative solutions to challenging problems. As previously noted, their need was to be able to offer more modern and fashionable merchandise for Girl Scouts, so they could easily show off their pride for their troops and the organization. Recognizing FIT’s strengths in design, science, business, and technology, it was a no-brainer to forge a partnership with the DTech Lab to help re-invent a major part of their fashion retail program.
The redesign of the Girl Scout uniforms include customizable options, featuring a new vest and sash, as well as an apparel collection of 18 new interchangeable pieces for girls ages 6-12. To date, the following items have been revamped and added to the Girl Scouts merchandise offerings: cotton-blend and crewneck T-shirts, full-zip hoodie sweatshirts, drawstring joggers, pocketed spandex leggings, cargo pants, a soft knit skater dress, and a light-washed denim jacket. While creating design templates for the clothing, Nidhi, Jenny, and Melissa highlighted features of the classic Girl Scout look while infusing modern and fashionable twists so that every Girl Scout can show off her unique style.
Prior to getting to work on the designs, Nidhi, Jenny, and Melissa had to first be selected by leadership from the FIT DTech Lab, which is an entity within the college’s Innovation Center, both of which the students worked closely with throughout the process. Designs were completed through 3D virtual prototyping and an apparel design software, which ensured minimal waste and eliminated the need for physical sampling textiles. At the onset of the project, Girl Scouts and FIT carried out focus groups with current Girl Scouts to gather their opinions and gain insight into what they wanted to see reflected in the new designs.
From there, the research showed that the following themes were most important: individuality, inclusivity, functionality, and comfort. To keep these elements at the forefront of the designs, FIT professors worked in tandem with the students throughout the design process. Additionally, Nidhi, Jenny, and Melissa looked to current fashion trends for inspiration, while keeping diversity of style preferences in mind. “We were also inspired by the current trends of today like athleisure and streetwear; we designed the clothes to be comfortable, easy to wear, and functional,” says Melissa, and most importantly, “We made sure to also be inclusive of all body types, as we designed clothing that is adjustable, made with stretchy fabrics, or had a relaxed silhouette.”
Another element of influence was traditional Girl Scout style, “A big source of inspiration for our designs were the archive collection we viewed at the Girl Scouts headquarters. There we saw the Halston and Bill Blass uniforms that inspired some of the details and cuts,” shares Jenny. Melissa notes that they “were inspired by past Girl Scouts uniforms, dating from the 1950s to early 1990s,” and Nidhi says the team “took inspiration from the Girl Scouts archive.” Reflecting on her own experience as a Girl Scout, Nidhi expressed that “Girl Scouts really helped strengthen my self-confidence and encouraged me to pursue my interests,” and she used this to drive the need for these designs to help other girls feel confident.
Similar to Nidhi’s positive experience with the Girl Scouts, she shared that the design process was a great learning opportunity, “I feel like I have learned a lot not only as a student but as a designer. As a student through this project, I feel I was able to get great hands-on and real-life experience working on each stage.” Melissa shares the sentiment, “This opportunity allowed me to gain invaluable insight as to what it is like working on behalf of a company or brand as a designer. This experience has also solidified for me the idea that fashion has the ability to empower individuals and is a form of self-identity for many people.” And Jenny reflects on her main takeaway, “My takeaway from this experience was learning how to work as a team in order to create a collection.”
In terms of teamwork, the three student designers were supported by Tom Scott, a FIT fashion design faculty member, who served as a mentor throughout the project. Other students helped out with the effort as well—a separate team made up of students worked under close supervision of faculty from Advertising and Digital Design to develop a new and innovative retail microsite to launch the new collection.
Now that the launch is over, FIT is continuing their partnership with the Girl Scouts, which will create new opportunities for students to participate in hands-on learning. Michael Ferraro, Executive Director of the DTech Lab shares that the campus plans to explore how on-demand manufacturing and on-demand printing would allow the Girl Scouts to produce limited runs of seasonal prints of their heritage plaids and how Augmented Reality and 3D volumetric capture can create a gamefied brand message strategy for digital natives. The DTech Lab also offers other learning experiences for students, such as workshops, seminars, and industry events.
For those interested in checking out the collection of items, all are available for preorder at girlscoutshop.com/gsstyle.
Julie is the assistant director for student mental health and wellness for SUNY System Administration.