The runway to Project Funway: Eagle County schools host their own spin-offs before the main event |

The runway to Project Funway: Eagle County schools host their own spin-offs before the main event

EFEC’s annual fundraiser will take place on Saturday, April 1, at Dobson Arena in Vail

Students from Eagle Valley Middle School walk the runway on Wednesday, March 15 in student-made designs at the school's first Project Funway event. Students were prompted to create one-of-a-kind designs out of anything but clothes.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily

While the Education Foundation of Eagle County’s Project Funway has been a predominant event in the valley for over a decade, in recent years local schools have begun to duplicate it, bringing fashion design into their curriculum.

Project Funway is one of EFEC’s largest fundraisers each year, enabling it to support local schools through in-school enrichment programs, mental health support, and efforts to recognize teachers. This is the 12th year that the foundation has hosted the fashion event, which draws over 40 designers to create and wow on the runway with a design made of anything but clothes.

And as the success of the fundraiser has grown, so has the love for the concept.

This year, six schools hosted their own versions of the anything-but-clothes fashion shows ahead of the main 2023 Project Funway, which will take place Saturday, April 1, in Vail. According to Wendy Rimel, EFEC’s board president and chair, this has happened rather organically.

Students from Red Canyon High School hosted a Project Funway fashion show on Thursday, March 16.
Wendy Rimel/Courtesy Photo

Over the past few months, Homestake Peak School, Vail Christian Academy, Red Canyon High School, Berry Creek Middle School, Eagle Valley Middle School and Gypsum Creek Middle School all had a unit dedicated to teaching students creativity and clothing design.

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The Pirate’s Project Funway

On Wednesday, March 15, Eagle Valley’s exploratory class — taught by Tracy Teetaert — modeled their unique designs to a crowd of their peers, parents and teachers as well as a panel of EFEC judges. The designs featured everything from scraps of old Vail Daily newspapers and Spanish textbooks to snack wrappers, trash bags and everything in between.

Teetaert said she decided to do the unit because it fit well with the exploratory elective.

“Exploratory is a class for students looking to pursue a long-term project or competition of their own passion. This self-guided class is a time for individuals to create and challenge themselves to produce unique evidence of learning,” she said.

While students can choose between Project Funway and other challenges such as Science Olympiad, Model UN, Battle of the Books, and more, all of the competitions are meant to push students out of their comfort zones, Teetaert said.

And for almost all of the Eagle Valley students, it was their first time doing any kind of fashion design.

“I have never done any fashion project or had any experience with design, which made this all the more fun, even if it provided some challenge,” said Ava Mulholland-Brueck. 

Lexi Anderson said that the first time foray into fashion was “much more demanding than I originally thought.”

“It was challenging to pace ourselves, as in the beginning we wanted to get it all done but we couldn’t because we didn’t have materials, and now near the end we have the things we need but don’t have the motivation to work on it. I feel good about our effort, we really tried to make it look good,” Anderson added.

Eagle Valley Middle School’s Project Funway models and designers await the results from their runway show on Wednesday, March 15.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily

Ultimately, with little prior experience, the students were able to learn a lot and create wearable and unique designs.

“I learned about the color wheel, different textures, and how to draw fashion designs, and ultimately how to make an outfit,” said Briana Carrasco Diaz.

For Alexandria Berga, the best part was working with a team from the idea to the final product.

“From first sketch designs to looking at materials, to finally putting it all together; it was lots of fun,” she said. “I learned that if you have a very thorough and well-thought-out plan, then actually putting the product together is a lot easier and makes the process go more smoothly and efficiently.”

Teetaert said that one of the biggest things she saw students gain through the project was perseverance.

“Students grew and evolved by focusing on independent and critical thinking global readiness skills, like collaboration, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, and curiosity and imagination,” Teetaert said. “When you give students the avenue to use their imagination and creativity, they shine.”

It’s a lesson the students realized for themselves through the process.

“I learned a lot about how to work around problems that arose in the middle of working. Many times I had something that did not work the way I wanted it to, and I had to find a solution without restarting it completely,” said Madeleine Cardona.

Reilly Switala said that the process taught the “importance of cooperation and keeping a flexible mindset.”

“While we were making the dress there was a lot of trial and error but it was very important for us to not give up and keep a flexible mindset to try new designs,” Switala said.

Cesia Calona George said that her peers were the ones that helped her keep going.

“I was very frustrated and then I was going to quit but then I got even more inspired by the support everyone had and had faith in me,” she said, adding that she learned from the experience that “even if you think it’s bad, for others, it might be good.”

For many of the students, the project gave them a chance to bring attention to global issues, including being true to the anything-but-clothes prompt: waste and pollution.

“My design was at first inspired to bring awareness to the many injustices of the world, and to light a flame, but as we developed the dress some of that narrowed and changed from such a broad category,” said Mulholland-Brueck. “The theme is now more centered around bringing awareness to wasteful practices and pollution today, and trying to better our world in the future.”

The many themes included “bringing awareness to injustices in the world, humankind’s space exploration, spring and blooming into the new seasons, the power of repurposed materials, and dumpster diving divas,” Teetaert said.

While the six classroom projects were developed on their own, Teetaert said that EFEC stayed involved in the class by helping encourage the students with their designs. And while the students won’t be on stage at the main event at Dobson, they will all be invited to attend with their families.  

EFEC’s Project Funway will take place Saturday, April 1, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Dobson Arena in Vail. Visit for more information or to purchase tickets.

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