Jessee presenting her winning designs at Project OR during the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. Photos couresy of Outdoor Retailer.

Upscale urban cycling, fixie, and cruiser sportswear continues to gain traction as a growing movement among  those choosing bikes for  transportation and thus creating the need for savvy cycle-wear.

The movement has been growing in various niche industries, especially in boutique bike stores, but when Levi Strauss launched their NanoSphere Commuter collection structured and made specifically for the urban rider in March, 2012, it solidified the movement.

Levi’s jumping into the industry gave cred and legitimacy to brands like Outlier that have been creating urban cycling gear for several years. (Outlier has made waves with its collection which premierd at Project last year and its strong online sales.)

The latest to bring this to the forefront was Project OR winner Katy Jessee, a senior at Missouri State University, and the overall winner of the Outdoor Retailer’s ninth cycle of Project OR held at OR Summer Market, August 3-5, 2012.

Katy Jessee wins Project OR with her cruiser cycling outfit.

Project OR is a design competition held by Outdoor Retailer that celebrates the functionality, originality and design of outdoor recreation clothing. Outdoor Retailer hand-pick’s five design students from top design programs around the country to produce a garment prototype that is original, an innovative use of performance and eco-friendly materials, and has a practical application for the outdoor market.

Once initial garment designs are complete on the first day, contestants turn their drawings into products using the latest fabrics, zippers and other clothing components provided by participating supplier exhibitors. With sourcing complete, contestants spend the remainder of the 48-hour deadline at their work station (equipped with sewing machines, cutting tables, pressing equipment and tools) building their final prototypes.

The results are always interesting and provide on-site trade show entertainment and friendly competition. It also highlights how designing with outdoor fabrics combined with trending designs and an eye for eco and sustainability is new crossover territory as seen with brands such as Poler or designer collabs such as Timbuk2 with Woolrich and their checked-bag—brands and collabs that bring new meaning to the concept of “adventure style.”

Comprised of a tailored, menswear inspired jacket and cropped jean, Jesse’s winning cruiser outfit for a cyclist in the Northwest met and exceeded the technical and fashionable specifications outlined in the Project OR design brief.

According to Haysun Hahn, a Project OR judge, “Jessee’s final design made our jaws drop – it was so much more than we could have ever imagined. Her design had such an elegant feel, while combining technical fabrics and components.”

Project OR’s expert panel of judges say they felt trepidation when the menswear designer first presented her concept board. The panel worried that while the fashion elements were on trend, that the final product wouldn’t have the proper functionality for the outdoor market. During the final presentation, strategically placed venting and stretch, and a removable caped hood pleasantly surprised and impressed the panel of judges.

“My inspiration was to create outerwear in disguise,” further explained Jessee.

Jessee’s jacket was primarily comprised of a plaid Schoeller corkshell fabric; details and edges were lined with Bemis seam tape. Brookwood fabrics made up the underarm and shoulder area venting panels. CORDURA was used for the jacket’s removable hood, cinched with a Sterling Rope drawstring and ITW Nexus toggles. Cropped jeans completed the outfit constructed utilizing Schoeller fabric with 3M Scotch light-lined inseams.

Participation in the competition gives student designers unprecedented access to the most technical performance fabrics and garment components, and the brands behind the technology.

“We essentially peppered the suppliers with questions about how the fabrics functioned,” said Jessee. “Everyone was so helpful, supportive and inclusive – I’m very impressed with this industry.”

Outdoor Retailer will present the next cycle of Project OR at Winter Market, January 23-6, 2012.