Behind The Scenes of O’Neill’s Generation Next With Cedar Carter

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A.J. Cook for O'Neill

This year’s Generation Next fashion show, held for the first time at the San Francisco Design Centerwent off without a hitch, welcoming  more than one thousand guests to the 5th annual competition and music event, presented by Teen Vogue

Held near brand Founder Jack O’Neill’s hometown this past Saturday, November 3rd, the evening showcased a first-time look at one-of-a-kind O’Neill neoprene swimwear designed by celebrities Lauren Conrad, Marisa Miller, Jordana Brewster, A.J. Cook, and Leven Rambin in honor of O’Neill’s invention of the wetsuit. The five pieces are being auctioned online at oneillgirls.com until November 15th with proceeds going to charity. Music for the night was provided by New York based entertainer, DJ Sinatra.

San Ramon Valley High School sophomore Sidney Bundlie’s 1980′s inspired design took home the grand prize package, after top honors were determined by a combination of text message votes from the audience, webcast viewers, and judges from O’Neill and Teen Vogue. Bundlie now boasts a $5,000 scholarship, O’Neill wardrobe and design internship, a feature in Teen Vogue, and the incorporation of her winning design into the O’Neill collection.

After a whirlwind event, Cedar Carter, director of marketing and public relations for O’Neill Girls, sat down with us to talk about the history behind Generation Next, and why it’s important to the brand to get youth involved in the creative design process.

Cedar Carter, front and center, at this year's Generation Next event.

Cedar Carter, front and center, at this year’s Generation Next event.

Why did O’Neill decide to hold the event in SF this year?

O’Neill is celebrating its 60th anniversary and Jack O’Neill’s invention of the wetsuit. We thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate near Jack’s hometown and give the high school kids in the area where O’Neill started an opportunity to participate in the Generation Next program.

What is the main purpose of holding thus event?

The main purpose of O’Neill Generation Next is to encourage girls to follow their dreams of becoming a fashion designer and help them get started. We award a $5k scholarship at the end of the program and each of the five finalists walks away with amazing experience that has helped gain many of our former participants entry into top design schools.

Has the event grown in size since its started? What are the current stats on participation?

O’Neill Generation Next has grown in size each year and we get emails from all over the country asking when we’re going to come to their area. We have thousands of viewers tune in online each year to the final show and had hundreds of applicants in the SF/Santa Cruz area apply to the program this year. We had over a thousand people attend the event in San Francisco, so we were very happy with the turnout. Two of the schools participating had four busloads of students!

What high schools are participating this year? How do you make this selection?

This year, our finalists were from Encinal High in Alameda, Presentation High in San Jose, Bear River High in Grass Valley, San Ramon Valley High in Danville, and The Head Royce School in Oakland.

We have partnered with Teen Vogue each year and together we narrow down the initial applications, which include design sketches and a questionnaire, to 20 people and do phone interviews. Then we bring in the top 10 and do interviews with the Teen Vogue staff and O’Neill Marketing and Design staff. We then select the top 5 finalists and start the 6 month design process. We assign an O’Neill design mentor and help them through every step of the process, from sketches, tech packs, marketing, logo design, and runway show production.

Why does O’Neill continue to support and foster this event? Why is it important to the action sports and fashion communities?

Simply put, we feel it’s important to give back to the girls who support our brand and encourage them to follow a passion they might not have thought possible. We continuously hear from past and present finalists that this program is a life changing experience for them. It’s very rewarding to be a part of something that has such a positive impact. It’s also like one big focus group for us constantly being around these girls. It continues to inspire our design and marketing teams by immersing us in their youthful passion and enthusiasm, which helps us keep a finger on the pulse of our consumer.