Evelyn Collins stands next to the pair of Balega socks she designed through an online contest held by Balega roughly a year ago. She created the design and viewers internationally voted for four winners. Photo by: Sarah Dutton/Dispatch Staff
June 10, 2017 10:15:02 PM
Sports Center has a little -- and in some cases a lot of -- just about everything when it comes to sports apparel.
The sprawling retail store at Highway 12 and Louisville Street in Starkville even has its own resident artist.
It might not be the future Evelyn Collins imagined when she graduated from Starkville Academy and headed to college, first at East Mississippi and later at Mississippi State, where she earned with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, but her job at Sports Center fulfills her creative urges.
"When I went to Mississippi State, I really wanted to major in graphic design," said Collins, 25. "But I couldn't get in, so rather than wait a year to get a spot, I decided to major in fine arts, painting. I'm still not painting or doing a lot of graphic design, but this job does give me a chance to use my creative energy."
For the past 18 months, Collins has worked in the store's custom apparel department, creating logos or incorporating existing logos into designs for a range of apparel -- everything from team jerseys and uniforms to golf shirts embellished with company logos.
She's designed or adapted all sorts of logos for all sorts of clothing.
But she never really thought about socks.
Who thinks about socks, right?
Well, Andrew Tyler, for one.
Tyler, the store's shoe manager, has been with Sports Center since it opened in 2009. He speaks with remarkable enthusiasm about the shoes and the shoe-related products he sells.
So, when Tyler received a notice about a design/marketing contest being staged by Balega, a leading line of high-tech running socks, he immediately thought of Collins.
"I showed it to her and told her she might be interested," Tyler said.
For Collins, it was a chance to measure her creative chops against designers from across the country.
Noting the judging would be held on the Balega Facebook page, she figured she would need a design that would be instantly recognizable.
For someone who grew up in the shadows of MSU, a thought immediately came to her mind: Stark Vegas.
"Stark Vegas has really kind of taken off," Collins said. "You see it everywhere, so I thought using it on my design would be something people would respond to."
Her design was simple, minimalist -- the word "STARK VEGAS" embroidered on the inside heel of the sock. The power of the phrase took over from there.
"They picked 20 finalists out of hundreds of entries," Collins said. "My design made that cut. Balega then put 10 designs up on its page one week for people to pick out their favorite, then put the other 10 up on the page. When it was over, I was one of the four winning designs. Pretty cool."
As a reward for its efforts, Balega sent 250 pairs of Collins' "Stark Vegas" socks to Sports Center.
"We're probably the only place in the world you can buy them," Tyler said. "We've already sold 30 pairs in just the few weeks we've had them."
Along with the bragging rights, Collins also got a $600 check.
"I wish I could say I spent it on something cool," she said, laughing. "I spent it all on bills."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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