What’s Next Competition Inspires Young Designers

Imagine the future of fabric.

We’re understandably passionate about textile innovation. Weaving is one of the oldest human crafts in existence, and fabric is still one of the most relevant, intimate objects we interact with today, from our clothes to our households. This most basic of materials remains so essential to everyday life.

Yet fabric is anything but ordinary. It carries the endless potential to convey mood and meaning, while its function intrinsically enhances these concepts.

The What’s Next competition was created to tap fresh minds for design inspiration, and to expose young designers to the creative potential of Sunbrella performance fabrics. Launched in 2014, we host the competition with Jefferson’s Textile Design program. Jefferson is the recent merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University. We ask students to imagine the future of Sunbrella fabrics and to answer the question, ‘What’s next?’

Says Marcia Weiss, Director of the Fashion & Textiles Futures Center at Jefferson, “The partnership between Sunbrella and Jefferson’s Textile Design Program gives our students a tremendous opportunity to gain exposure and a deeper knowledge of the textile industry, while using their creativity to work with the raw materials of an actual product. We have very talented students in our program.  The fact that this is the third iteration of the Sunbrella project is proof that our students’ creative insight is valuable to the Sunbrella design team.”

As part of the competition, design students are invited to join a Sunbrella 101 class to get a good breadth of understanding about the product and the brand. From there, students quickly dive in to the core of Sunbrella fabric, exploring how to push the boundaries of knitting and weaving with Sunbrella yarns.

The What’s Next competition also creates strong connections with prospective team members. Emily Weiss, who took second place in the 2014 competition with a blue and green color palette ideal for a beach home, went on to intern with Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, parent company to Sunbrella, and later join the team as an official employee.

Emily Olsen, who took second place this year for her three-dimensional design, says “Having the time, support, and resources offered through the What’s Next competition allowed me to follow my creative impulses and to think differently about how I design textiles. It was a really wonderful experience to meet with designers from Glen Raven throughout the year, hear their feedback and words of support, and be able to share with them the final results at the culmination of the project.”

Check out the winning entries:


1st Place: Jiyoung Park

What's Next Competition Winner

2nd Place: Emily Olsen

What's Next Competition Runner Up

3rd Place: Madeline Halsey

What's Next Competition Third Place


Congratulations to this year’s winners!