The industrial design program was approached by Horace Small, a uniform company owned by Vanity Fair Imagewear.
Vanity Fair Imagewear also owns several other apparel brands like Wrangler Jeans.
“Horace Small came to us and said that they were trying to reestablish themselves, and they came to us for conceptual ideas,” said Dylan Piper-Kaier, graduate student in industrial design.
The project began with large amounts of research, according to Rich Britnell, professor in industrial design.
Students participated in ride-alongs with the Auburn Police Department, the Auburn Fire Department and the Alexander City Fire Department.
“We did what equated to 40 hours of ride-alongs with different agencies and picked their brain about things,” Britnell said.
After receiving feedback from the different officers, the students set to work on their designs, according to Britnell.
“It was really good getting feedback and getting a direction to go,” said Chad Griffith, senior in industrial design.
Griffith went on the ride-alongs and decided to focus his designs on bicycle patrol officers.
“Patrol officers are a growing segment, and as far as uniforms go there’s not a lot out there,” Griffith said. “It’s usually just a polo shirt and bicycle shorts.”
Griffith’s goal was to design a uniform that was more professional, but also functional.
“I tried to create a mesh between something lightweight and breathable but still give a good solid command presence,” Griffith said.
Piper-Kaiser focused his research on designing a uniform for firefighters. He had to design a uniform that provided more functionality, but wouldn’t be too drastic of a change.
“There’s a lot of tradition behind both law enforcement and firefighter uniforms,” Piper-Kaiser said. “They have to be able to be identified readily, so everything ended up looking traditional.”
After speaking with firefighters, Piper-Kaiser said he learned that the biggest complaint firefighters had about their uniform was that they were too often mistaken for police officers.
“Many times their uniform is a police uniform without the police utility built or body armor,” Piper-Kaiser said.
Piper-Kaiser designed a uniform with waterproof material along the shoulders and knees to protect firefighters from the elements. He also lined the inside of the pants with pockets to give the pants a professional yet functional look.
After the projects were completed, designs were presented to Horace Small.
“The quality of the final pieces were very impressive,” Britnell said. “I think there were three vice-presidents of the company that were there. It was some valuable experience for (the students).”
Although it was challenging, students enjoyed the project.
“It was really cool,” Griffith said. “In industrial design we usually focus on hard products like consumer electronics or drills. It’s really interesting to work on some soft goods and learn how to sew.”
This was the first time most of the students had worked with a sewing machine.
“I actually had one of the student’s moms come in to give everyone a sewing lesson,” Britnell said. “It was very satisfying to see them learn a new skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
The industrial design program is already working on future projects.
This fall, students will be working on grills and smokers.
“It’s never boring around here,” Britnell said. “There’s always something different.”