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Daniel goes from shoe-seller to award-winning shoe designer

Before embarking on a course at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), Daniel Patrick Maguire sold trainers for many years at a well-known department store and doubted his confidence in ever attending university.

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Now, not only is Daniel designing the very items he used to sell but he is winning top awards for his skills with one recent creation praised as being an “immaculate” and “meticulously well-made” shoe that could hit the shelves now.

The Footwear Design student has been deemed “one to watch in the trade” by experts at the UK’s largest fashion trade exhibition, MODA, following its History in the Making competition last month.

As home to the UK’s only dedicated Footwear Design course, DMU is a springboard for young talent seeking to join all aspects of the trade and MODA Footwear was proud to team up with the university for the ninth consecutive year.

History in the Making challenges final-year DMU Footwear Design students to create a range of shoe designs, with six chosen finalists displaying their designs to trade professionals at MODA.

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This year’s project asked entrants to incorporate an aspect of heritage into a contemporary shoe with MODA saying the students “surpassed themselves with their eclectic interpretations of the brief”.

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Daniel, who worked in retail for 12 years, including seven years in the footwear department at Selfridges before starting the course, said: “It’s quite an unusual feeling to have won because I’ve never won anything in my life before being at DMU and the competition here is stiff too.”

“Judging within competitions is always going to be subjective. All the DMU entrants had put in a lot of hard work for this project, including those who didn’t even shortlist, but to be recognised as the winner did make me really happy and it was a very interesting day at the NEC.”

This most recent success comes on the back of an another award win for Daniel from The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, a trade guild dating back to the 17th century which supports the footwear industry. Daniel won the guild’s Orthopaedic Footwear Design Award which was presented at a gala dinner last October.

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The 32-year-old from Birmingham said: “Awards definitely help with your confidence. When I was working at Selfridges I never had the confidence to apply for university. Then an old school friend started a fine art degree in London and told me I should give uni a go too. I eventually decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so applied to DMU.”

Now, Daniel has been able to combine his passion for trainers – he has what he describes as a modest collection of around 50 pairs – with studying and after graduating in July hopes to develop his skills even further with a European internship.

The MODA judging panel said: “Daniel’s finished project was a design that could go onto the shelves in its current format. Every element of its production was immaculate and it was immediately apparent that the shoe had been meticulously well-made.”

Daniel wanted to design a work boot and MODA’s heritage brief led him to research the construction industry in New York City in the early 20th century and the so-called ‘skywalkers’ – the name given to the seemingly fearless iron and steelworkers working at dangerous heights.

The skywalkers are perhaps best-remembered from the iconic black-and-white photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” from 1932 which show 11 carefree construction workers having lunch while sat perilously across a steel beam several hundred feet above street level.

His studies revealed that many of these skywalkers were Mohawk Indians from reservations in upstate New York. This informed his design through the use of their thunderbird icon, with shaped pattern pieces wrapped around the back of the shoe in a hard-wearing nubuck, and an animal hide-effect suede across the toe, completed with a utility strap and real feather tag.

From research and illustrations through to fabric selection and pattern-cutting, the whole design process took around six weeks to complete.

The other DMU students to make the final-six shortlist were Natalie Bowmar-Scothern, Joanna Eden, Rachel Hamill, Tabasam Ullah and Rebecca Witherspoon.

Posted on Tuesday 7th March 2017

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