Fall is fast approaching and that means one thing to fashionistas around the world, fall fashion. It’s a time to embrace new trends and dress to impress. From chic leather skinnies to vintage must haves, fashion fanatics are taking the cat walk to the street. And to help keep fashionistas extraordinary all season long Diet Coke is launching a new, limited- edition T-shirt exclusively at Target.

The stylish T-shirt features the winning design from the second season of the Diet Coke Young Designer Challenge. Part of the brand’s iconic “Stay Extraordinary” platform, the contest challenged up and coming designers to show off their creativity.   

“The brand is synonymous with style,” says Caroline Kibler, senior brand manager for Diet Coke. “And fashion-focused programs like the Young Designer Challenge put the extraordinary talents of our fans in the spotlight.”

Season 2 Diet Coke T-Shirt Winning Design

Season 2 Winning Diet Coke T-Shirt Design

It’s this spotlight grand prize winner Julianna Bass worked towards her entire life.

Designer Genes

Bass’ fashion success is no coincidence. The talented designer launched her first collection after graduating with honors from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology in 2004. It was an instant success, gaining recognition from major publications including Lucky Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily. But before taking on the Big Apple, Bass says she was just a small town girl with high expectations.

 “As cliché as it sounds, I was interested in high fashion from an early age,” she says reminiscing about her childhood. It’s a surprising statement coming from a Tennessee native where country music reigns supreme—not runways—and cowboy boots outnumber high heels. But Bass says, “Fashion was always my kind of thing.”

Her fascination began with outfits on a much smaller scale, Barbie clothes. While many young girls enjoy dressing up their favorite dolls, Bass preferred to take their clothes apart. That’s where she says her inner designer first came out. She deconstructed the miniature outfits to see how they were put together and then asked her grandmother to help her replicate the clothing so she could wear them.

So it was no surprise when Bass decided to turn her fascination with fashion into a career.

Small Town Girl, Big City Dreams

Before attending FIT, Bass studied Apparel and Fashion Design at Middle Tennessee State University. And after graduation this small town girl was ready to pursue her big city dreams. The budding designer says she was psyched and ready to go.

“I was gung-ho to move to New York and confident that I was going to make it,” she says. But Bass admits she was nervous of how her southern ways would be received.  “I was totally worried about my accent,” she says. “Even after ten years it’s still around so you can only imagine how bad it was that long ago.”

Her southern twang certainly had no effect on her success. Over the course of ten years in New York, the Brooklyn based designer has racked up a laundry list of accomplishments. Her impressive repertoire includes: designing her own collection, serving as a Gen Art finalist, working with the likes of designers Bill Blass and Tahari, and dressing celebrities on the red carpet.  Without a doubt, this young designer is shining bright amongst the city lights.

The Design Challenge

Bass learned about the Diet Coke Young Designer Challenge via Diet Coke’s Twitter. As soon as she saw the tweet, she entered immediately.

“I like the concept and the fact that Diet Coke wants to promote up and coming and young designers,” says Bass. “I felt like it was just an amazing opportunity.”

DKO designer challenge

Designer and season-two judge, Rebecca Minkoff with the winning T-shirt design. 

The enthusiastic designer says she wanted to marry the design concept of the competition with an image that reflected her personal aesthetic.  The result: a dressy casual combination. “Diet Coke can go either way,” she explains. “It’s very relaxed but at the same time it’s very sophisticated.”

The design combination was a hit. A clear frontrunner from the get-go, the T-shirt design stood out as the fan favorite and the critique’s top choice.

“The new Diet Coke T-shirt is a refreshing take on the classic white tee,” said Rebecca Minkoff, designer and Diet Coke Young Designer Challenge season-two judge. “Julianna’s design perfectly captures the energy and boost that Diet coke provides to the people who drink it every day.”  

Perfect Timing

Bass was visiting family back home in Tennessee when she received a voicemail that changed her life. She had won. “The timing was ironic,” says Bass, who found out she had won a few days after her 10 year anniversary of moving to New York. “It just seemed like everything came full circle,” she says.

Winning couldn’t have come at a better time either. Producing a fashion collection is pricey. Bass says lacking funds to create a collection is a reality that every designer knows and it was the harsh reality Bass faced in 2010. After taking a two year pause from her collection, Bass says she couldn’t be more excited to get back to business. The young talent will use her $10,000 in prize money to create her fall 2014 line.

Bass says confidence is her key to success. “I always expect the best of myself. Everyone should.”

The limited edition T-shirt is now available in Target stores nationwide.


Read about last year’s winner Gustavo Alonso and his fascinating route into the fashion industry here.