McMillan was approached in early 2019 by the school to participate in the Fashion Studies Department’s new Fashion Lab – sharing his experience as the owner of the only “made in Chicago” denim jeans company and his particular insight into the denim industry.
He met with one of Columbia College’s Fashion Design and Merchandising classes 5-6 times during the Fall 2019 semester, explaining the history of the Dearborn Denim and how it operates, the company’s potential product development opportunities, and the desire to upcycle/reuse denim and leather product scraps from the manufacturing process.
With this background information, the students later presented 20+ individual concepts for denim jackets, women’s knits, graphic tees, and jewelry made from denim and leather. McMillan collaborated with them to make revisions as needed, and Dearborn Denim will be producing and selling some of the selected designs starting in March 2020.
It’s a win/win situation, with the students benefitting from the hands-on experience with a successful local company and the chance to have their designs produced, and McMillan gaining valuable feedback and new product ideas from a fashion-savvy young demographic.
McMillan commented, “It was a great experience working with the Columbia students, and we’re looking forward to releasing their designs – including a denim jacket, leather jewelry made from our label and belt scraps, and t-shirts for women.”
A January 13, 2020 Business of Fashion article mentioned, “In January 2019, Columbia College Chicago expanded its industry connections through the launch of the Fashion Lab, an academic industry partnership organization with Fortune 500 companies and brands like Cotton Inc. and United Airlines. Through the Fashion Lab, the school and its partners create custom design projects for students to work on real-time challenges facing fashion companies today, embedding first-hand industry experience into the curriculum.”
Stop into the Hyde Park location of Dearborn Denim & Apparel at 1504 E. 53rd Street, open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The store sells several different styles of men’s and women’s jeans (hemmed to fit while you wait), as well as belts, t-shirts, and accessories.