On a chilly January afternoon, Ooltewah High School students gathered around a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, admiring the iconic silhouette and snapping photos. One of the students climbed into the passenger seat, examining the interior and making a sketch in her notebook.
Jerry Hickey, head of sales for the local Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover dealership, directed students' attention toward new design elements, such as the differently sized wheels at the front and rear that give the car more of an athletic look.
Hickey then led the students toward a black Range Rover Sport, discussing the interior and exterior design — the shape, the layout, even the smell — before doing the same with a red Jaguar I-PACE EV 400.
The students are juniors and seniors in Heather McIntyre's fashion marketing class, the only class of its kind in the county, which boasts a waiting list more than 400 names long. Their assignment is to take design elements from the cars and incorporate them into their own clothing designs.
"Fashion influences all aspects of our lives," said McIntyre, who got the idea for the assignment from fashion designer Ralph Lauren, whose fall/winter 2018 line was inspired by 10 classic cars from his collection. "Fashion and car design have always played off of each other. I wanted my students to see the connection between the design elements in clothing and the design elements in cars."
When she ran the idea by Steven Sconzo, executive general manager of Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover of Chattanooga, he was excited for the dealership to collaborate with the students, and agreed to send sales representatives to the school with some of their latest models.
Before the students began to develop their designs, Hickey answered further questions about the cars, such as the cost to lease (over $2,000 a month for the Porsche, which has a sticker price of $136,500) and the color options available. He recalled one customer who requested a custom color to match his wife's eyes, and how the man was able to choose from several options developed by the design team at a cost of $25,000.
When asked about Porsche's target market, Hickey explained that it's changed since the 1980s, when 90-95 percent of Porsche buyers were men. Now, the majority of Porsches sold are SUVs rather than sports cars, a reflection of an overall trend in the industry.
Once students' designs are complete, they will present them to Sconzo to be displayed for a period in the dealership, said McIntyre, who's already had a request from another dealership that wants to partner for a similar project in the future.
"A couple of students have said they now want to design automobiles," she said, adding that with Volkswagen in town, it's a skill they could potentially turn into a job here locally.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.