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Finalist from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Announced in Nationwide Fashion Design Contest

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Finalist from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Announced in Nationwide Fashion Design Contest


Local student Maria Tania Mello will represent The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in The Humane Society of the United States’ fourth annual Cool vs. Cruel fashion competition. The Cool vs. Cruel competition inspires students enrolled in The Art Institutes’ fashion programs in its schools across North America to produce fur-free, animal-friendly fashions by using their own creativity to replace animal fur.  

Mello’s outfit is a beige two-piece skirt-suit with an artificial fur collar and hand-cut paw print embellishments. 

“This garment captures the spirit of the event in a very kitsch way,” said Andre West, academic director of fashion design at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, “It promotes the use of artificial fur, saying that these animals were once living, breathing entities that were walking free. The paw prints walk toward the heart, offering hope. It allows the viewer a new way of viewing fur as everyone can see this would not be cruel, it is cool! The garment is also sewn impeccably.”  

The competition continues to grow in popularity among students at The Art Institutes. Mello, a native of Boca Raton, Fla., is among the 15 local finalists who were chosen out of more than 150 entries to compete for the top prize nationally. Their entries will be judged by a star-studded panel of judges, including celebrities and top designers. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to New York City for the Nov. 13 award presentation and an all-expense paid, week-long internship during New York Fashion Week with a celebrated fur-free designer. The award presentation will be co-hosted by Nigel Barker, world-renowned fashion photographer and judge on “America’s Next Top Model.” 

“This contest gives young designers the opportunity to showcase their compassion and talent through cruelty-free, fashion-forward design,” said Kristin Leppert, director of the Fur-Free Campaign for The Humane Society of the United States. “Today’s consumers don’t want to buy a garment that might have been ripped off the back of a conscious animal. These students join an ever-growing list of designers and retailers who reject the cruelty of fur production. We applaud their pledge to make compassion their fashion.” 

Learn more at or


Media contact: The HSUS – Heather Sullivan: 301.548.7778;
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale –Arlene Wites: 954.308.2109;  

About The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization – backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at

About The Art Institutes
The Art Institutes ( is a system of more than 40 locations throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals. 

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