Former MU quarterback launches nationwide design competition

Thursday, January 16, 2014 | 6:53 p.m. CST; updated 8:16 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 16, 2014
Brad Smith, a former Missouri quarterback, is running a fashion design contest.

COLUMBIA — Brad Smith dons a three-piece suit with as much ease as a football jersey, and he wants emerging designers in the U.S. to get creative with his style.

The Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and Missouri quarterback from 2002 to 2005 is collecting sketches for his "Design for Brad Smith" competition. The contest challenges up-and-coming designers across the nation to produce a red-carpet look for Smith to wear to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York next month.

Fashion weeks bring in a flurry of sports stars and other celebrities, part of a growing trend among celebrities to enter the design arena, said Kerri McBee-Black, an instructor in the Textile and Apparel Management Department at MU. Shows like Project Runway and America's Next Top Model have also heightened people's awareness of the apparel industry, she said.

"The average person, whether or not they're in the industry, now sees it all the time," she said.

Smith's competition will provide the winner with various awards including a cash prize, a one-month internship, an all-expense paid two-day trip to NYC and a chance to meet Smith at a Fashion Week show. Fashion week takes place Feb. 6-13.

The deadline to submit sketches is 5 p.m. EST, Jan. 23. Application forms are available on the Design for Brad Smith Facebook page.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Smith discussed his pursuits in design and the crossover between football and fashion. Here are excerpts from the interview:

CM: How long have you been interested in fashion and design?

BS: "It’s always been kind of an underlying theme, something I’ve always enjoyed and liked. ... When this opportunity came up, I thought it was a great idea and an opportunity at the same time to help someone get their foot in the door and get their actions distinguished so, you know, it seemed like a good fit."

CM: Do you have an interest in doing design or modeling beyond the competition?

BS: "I am interested in designing something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be clothes or that type of thing, but in general it’s definitely something I want to learn how to do. I would love to collaborate with someone and put ideas together to make something that’s pretty cool. That’s really kind of my goal."

CM: How did the scheme for “Design for Brad” come about?

BS: "The idea came based on the stuff when I was working with Men’s Health Magazine with their style department. They brought up a great idea, and with our foundation we like to help people further their goals. It’s just the intention of a way to help and at the same time learn about the fashion industry and kind of highlight that part of what I like to do. I think it's really cool, and we’ve had great submissions so far. It’s really awesome what they’ve done and hopefully more people can their things in by the" deadline "and we can pick a winner."

CM: Have you seen any of the designs?

BS: "I’ve seen a few of them that were submitted, and they were outstanding."

CM: Football is often regarded as a very masculine sport whereas design is less so, so were there any surprise reactions from friends or fans when you announced you’d be doing this competition?

BS: "Not at all, and I don’t think that’s accurate. I think design in general is not limited to one fix. Even within fashion, there's a lot of male designers. You look at a lot of the professional athletes, you know, who like to dress and be professional in the way they present themselves and carry themselves. You see the LeBron James', the Kevin Durants. Kevin is one of those guys who takes pride in how they present themselves with clothes and stuff like that. So I think it's a way to express yourself and be creative off the football field or off the basketball court."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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