Evelyn Siao, ’21, takes top prize in Fashion Scholarship Fund challenge


Evelyn Siao

Evelyn Siao, ‘21, received the Fashion Scholarship Fund’s top prize, the Board of Directors Chairman’s Award, earning $17,500 in this year’s Case Study Scholarship Challenge. 

Siao’s win was announced in a virtual celebration on Jan. 12, 2021, which featured celebrity appearances by Virgil Abloh and Ryan Seacrest.

“It was really surprising at first,” Siao said. “Even when I submitted my case study, I didn’t think I would win anything, much less be in the top four.”

Through the case study competition, the Fashion Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to students from 66 universities across the U.S. These scholarships help students interested in varying facets of the fashion industry, including product design, marketing and merchandising, marketing analytics and supply chain. This year there were 650 submissions and about 120 total scholarships awarded.

Lehigh first partnered with the Fashion Scholarship Fund in 2007, and students have consistently won scholarships ever since, said Nevena Koukova, an associate professor of marketing and the campus faculty advisor for the Fashion Scholarship Fund. Despite the lack of a fashion or design program at Lehigh, six Lehigh students received scholarships in 2020. 

Siao, however, is the university’s first finalist. 

According to the Fashion Scholarship Fund website, the prompt for this year’s case study was to identify a current political, cultural, or social phenomenon and select a product from a pre-existing fashion, beauty or lifestyle brand to integrate the phenomenon into an online and in-store merchandise campaign, while maintaining brand integrity and authenticity.

Siao designed a campaign for Levi Strauss & Co. called #DeeperPockets. This campaign aims to close the gender pay gap by creating a line of jeans with deeper pockets for women, Siao said. 

“(The campaign) was mainly inspired by my grandma,” Siao said. “She had to work really hard and at the time she wasn’t expected to work. She was discouraged from going to college and pursuing a job outside the home. Despite all of that, she still worked really hard and proved herself.”

The concept of deeper pockets came into play when Siao said she began to notice that men’s pants have much deeper pockets than women’s pants. She said that while men can leave the house with everything they need in their pockets, women often have to carry a purse.

Although the inequalities surrounding salaries and pocket size are very different, Siao said it would be interesting to combine the two and create a cause that women would want to get behind. 

“Evelyn’s case was unique because it’s relevant to the current social moment in time,” David Canfield, ‘14, former Fashion Scholarship Fund scholar and current alumni council member, said. “But more importantly it’s easy to execute. It’s a great idea that you can actually bring to market, which I think is often where students struggle.”

Siao’s presentation featured the design for the jeans and their pockets, as well a marketing campaign, distribution plan, and cost analysis.

Students develop their presentations primarily by themselves, however Koukova and alumni involved with the FSF can provide guidance and feedback to students.

“When Evelyn shared (her presentation) with me a week before the final deadline, I was really impressed,” Koukova said. “I think it is a very creative idea. To me, this play on words with ‘deep pockets,’ which means two different things, is an amazing idea. She also took it really seriously and put a lot of work into the different components of the proposal.”

According to the Fashion Scholarship Fund, scholarship winners must use their prize money for something related to school, work or an internship. Siao said she hopes to use her money to help pay for her tuition as a way to give back to her parents.

Koukova said that although the prize money is an important aspect of winning a scholarship, there are other, more important, long term benefits. She said the Fashion Scholarship Fund provides internship opportunities, career fairs, job opportunities for seniors, summer workshops, a mentorship program and alumni connections.

As of now, Siao’s proposal remains an idea, however, she said a marketing operative at Levi Strauss & Co. is aware of her case study and could potentially move it forward.

“Levi’s is obviously a supporter of the Fashion Scholarship Fund,” Canfield said. “I think it’s a great idea, so hopefully she’ll hear something from them.”

In order to get more students involved, Koukova visits the College of Business’ core classes, such as intro-level marketing and supply chain management, and introduces students to both the competition and the fashion industry. This year, she said she will attend these classes over Zoom.

Lehigh students looking to get involved with next year’s competition can contact Nevena Koukova at [email protected] for more information. The case study prompts for 2022 will be released this month and the deadline to apply is October 2021.

“I think a lot of students should try it out,” Siao said. “It’s a great opportunity, especially if you’re interested in fashion. I’ve liked fashion since I was really young, but I think this gave me confidence and reassured me that this is something I should be pursuing.”

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