Runway Competition Underway for Rocky the Ram Style Refresh by City College Fashion Students

By JohnTaylor Wildfeuer


On Sep. 22 four City College fashion students presented unique, eye-catching designs, one of which will become Rocky the Ram’s new uniform.


Senior management assistant of Outreach and Recruitment Cathy Chang, who launched the runway competition and now guides the proceedings, opened the event with words of encouragement for competitors, declaring, “This is your moment today, the first phase of the contest … I’m thrilled and excited.”

Judges Natalie Smith, Meg Hudson, and Rocky the Ram review their notes as competitors finish their presentations and prepare to take measurements of Rocky, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. Presenters Luis Guerrero, Sara El Olich, and Caiyun Lei (left to right) wait in the wings. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

Having come prepared with powerpoints and props, students gave their pitches to Chang and three judges: Dean of Outreach and Community Partnerships Meg Hudson, Fashion Department Chair Natalie Smith, the event’s coordinator from the outreach department Cathy Chang, and Rocky the Ram.


Contestants were awarded up to five points for each of the following categories: inspirational, connected, relevant, compelling, generative, and overall presentation, for a combined possible score of 30 points.


The first to present was Caiyun Lei who sought to capture the “spirit and culture of City College” with a vest and short combination sporting ‘CCSF’ replete with sling bag and bow tie accessories. 

Caiyun Lei presents a full-color representation of her design, complete with panels outlining costume pieces and accessories including a stylish prop bag and bowtie, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

A key part of her design, she said, is getting connection points between the black-and-white stitching to be “flat and beautiful.”


Hudson praised the functionality of providing Rocky with a bag, glowingly describing the overall effect as “very branded, very spirited.”


Smith noted that the addition of a tongue to the mascot added “a bit of whimsy,” and that “overall it’s just adorable.”


Luis Guerrero presented next with an inclusive design that utilizes interchangeable foam gloves, in rainbow patterns and signing in ASL, that show support for the LGBTQAI2S+ and deaf communities.


Guerrero, who is deaf and made his compelling presentation with the aid of translators, prioritized “versatility and variety” showcasing a jersey design with clear attention to customizability and flexibility.


Luis Guerrero described the way in which Rocky’s sunglasses will be secured to the horns so that they do not move or fall as Rocky works the crowds, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

His inspiration for the look came in part from reflection on the college’s origins, particularly the “diverse population who founded the school … so that everyone would have an opportunity for a better future.


Smith described Guerrero’s composition as “very thoughtful and inclusive,” adding that she appreciated his research into the college’s history.


Hudson said she loved that Guererro “thought about the practical nature and being washable, lightweight and flexible.”


The next presenter, Michael Gniadek, worked out two designs, one for game days and another for Pride events.


Gniadek, like Guerrero, created a design that can be made “breathable, lightweight,and washable,” which he hopes to achieve by sourcing knit polyester for his fabric. He also worked out a design for Rocky’s boots and gloves that slip on and bind using Velcro and elastic straps, adding “You don’t really have to worry about sizes in that case.”


Michael Gniadek describes his design for Rocky’s gloves and boots, which he plans to make easy to don and remove with strategic use of Velcro and elastic straps, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. To his left sits Outreach and Recruitment’s Cathy Chang who launched the runway competition and leads the proceedings. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

Another of his design priorities, he said is “to do something a little bit more sassy with the sequins.” Particularly with his Pride design, which, in addition to his modular design for gloves and boots also features a vibrant rainbow skirt made up of many individual strips of fabric to add greater texture and movement to Rocky’s Pride outfit.


On the one hand, judges were quick to point out that a more “gender-neutral variation or option” might serve a greater range of future Rockys. On the other hand, Smith suggested emblazoning the back of the costume with the City College logo so that “when the mascot out there turns around, does a little twerk” the college’s symbols are visible.


In the past, Rocky’s lack of identifiably City College emblems has been an issue at Pride events. Hudson recounted that “we were at the pride parade … two years ago and Rocky had no CCSF branding and was working the crowd so much, but I don’t think they knew that [Rocky represented the college].”


Overall, the judges were enthused by the customizability of the gloves and boots and the festive Pride design, and appreciative that Gniadek offered two designs geared towards events Rocky attends throughout the year.


Last to present was Sara El Olich, who offered two concepts, one for Pride with an emphasis on “colorful accessories inspired by the 70s,” and a second designed with Welcome Day in mind, reminiscent of a plaid school uniform.

Sara El Olich begins her presentation, which features two outfits, one for Welcome Day the other for Pride events, replete with a horn-conscious bucket hat and other accessories, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

El Olich’s Pride design consists of three major elements, abstractly these are “colors, flowers, happiness.” Specifically this consists of a bucket hat with holes for Rocky’s horns, a white belt embroidered with flowers, and a CCSF branded backpack, potentially reworked into more of a sling so that contents are more readily accessible for Rocky.


Her Welcome Day design, which features a plaid, pleated skirt and matching bowtie, is designed to evoke traditional school uniforms. El Olich also noted that she “wanted to have this feeling of warmth and welcome, because I know how going back to school can be stressful.”


She intends to use only natural fabrics so as to make her design climate-conscious and sustainable.


Smith, who described El Olich’s presentation as “next level,” added that she loved that the presenter “really paid attention to the sustainability aspect of it all.”


Judges spoke favorably about the potential for customizing Rocky’s bucket hat for events with flowers, shamrocks, and other other themed items.


After all four students had presented their pitches they were given the opportunity to measure various aspects of the Rocky costume, which they did with a notable level of meticulousness measuring not only height and length-of-limb, but also the circumference of the Ram mascot’s head, shoulders, waist, legs, and torso.


Luis Guerrero, Michael Gniadek, Caiyun Lei, and Sara El Olich (left to right) take measurements of Rocky to prepare for fabrication of their design ideas with Judge Natalie Smith in the foreground, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in San Francisco, CA. Photo by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

They were also shown Rocky’s ice-vest, a device frozen and worn under Rocky’s fur to keep performers safely cooled down in their hot and bulky mascot suit.


Using these metrics, designers will now set about fashioning outfits for Rocky to try on first at a runway rehearsal on Nov. 20, and then at the final Costume Contest Runway Event to be held at the Chinatown campus on Dec. 8.


To cover their material costs, students were given $125 certificates, which, when coupled with a 33% discount on fabrics at the local fabric store, amounts to a roughly $175 budget for each student.


Closing out the presentation portion, Chang, echoing the judges remarks, said, “your hard work, your passion, your talent will be very much appreciated at the runway theater.”


The Dec. 8 runway event is open to the public and will be held on the 4th floor of City College’s Chinatown campus, located at 808 Kearny Street.

The Guardsman