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Hazel wins gold for DMU at world leading student fashion event

De Montfort University (DMU) designer Hazel Symons is the toast of the global fashion industry today after striking gold at one of the world’s biggest student catwalk events.

Final year Fashion Design student Hazel’s stunning collection was selected by judges from 1,000 students representing 40 universities to be awarded the Christopher Bailey Gold Award by Oracle at the 25th Graduate Fashion Week prize ceremony last night.

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Hazel (second left) taking her victory walk down the catwalk

Hazel received the £10,000 prize for a collection comprising inventive monochrome pieces with seams that were bolted rather than sewn. It means customers can buy different pieces and bolt them together “like lego”.

The judging panel, which included accessories designer Sophie Hulme, blogger Susie Lau and designers Giles Deacon, Gareth Pugh and Christopher Raeburn, praised Symons’ collection for its inventive yet playful style.

The Gold Award is named after the Burberry chief creative officer and chief executive Christopher Bailey, who debuted his work at the first Graduate Fashion Week in 1992 and was the first ever recipient of the prize.


One of Hazel's award-winning designs on the GFW catwalk

Hazel’s collection made its debut during the DMU catwalk show at Graduate Fashion Week, in London’s East End, on Tuesday, and was put through to the final the next day. Guests at the final included legendary British designers Vivienne Westwood and Julien Macdonald.

Hazel’s award was the culmination of a hugely successful week for the Fashion Design course at DMU, during which 17 students showed off their collections on the catwalk.  

They went through a gruelling selection process to show their final year collections in front of an audience which included fashion leaders such as Lipsy, Sainsbury's Tu, M&S, Jigsaw and River Island at the annual Graduate Fashion Week (GFW).

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The emotionally-charged moment that Hazel's win was announced

Hazel’s win comes off the back of two Contour Fashion students taking first and second prizes in a national competition run by burgeoning lingerie brand Boux Avenue at GFW.

Betsan Evans won with lingerie inspired by scaffolding and the industrial landscape, while Katherine Blake came second with designs inspired by the natural landscape.

Megan McCallister, a Fashion Textiles and Accessories student also won third prize in GFW’s Accessories Award.

Talent spotters headed straight to the DMU display stand after the show to talk to students about everything from one-off assignments or paid placements to full-time jobs.

On top of that, seven students were shortlisted for special awards while Hazel and Holly Borg were chosen to show their collections again on the final day for the Gala Award Show prizes.

Hazel said: “I am simply overwhelmed. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It is such a major award. And to get an actual trophy was a unique experience because I’ve never been presented with one before.


“I went to the after show party and it was strange as everyone knew my name. People were coming up to me and shaking my hand and saying ‘congratulations’. I had a great response and lots of people were asking me what I wanted to do next. I’ve also had emails from people offering me opportunities.

“I have been all over social media and the internet and I need a chance to understand what’s happened before I decide what to do next, although I do want to complete a masters and learn  lots of new things in fashion that other people do not know.”

A delighted Della Swain, Course Leader in Fashion Design at DMU, said all the staff and students had been singing the Spandau Ballet song ‘Gold’ all the way from London to Leicester.

She added: “It feels like all the hard work and the investment in this students and their course has paid off. And this prize could not have gone to a more brilliant student. It is also superb that GFW has recognised fashion at DMU in its 25th year.

“I am in shock, excited and delighted for Hazel, the students and our course.”


Hazel’s designs have steadily gained attention, including making finals of the national Lakeland Leather competition, being shortlisted for the Golden Shears award recognising the best new tailors in Britain, and earning £150 in DMU’s annual Roadley Awards supporting student innovation.

Graduate Fashion Week is a charity organisation founded in 1991 by Jeff Banks CBE, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford to unify both UK and international universities and create a stronghold for the creative industries. 


Showcasing the work of more than 1,000 of the very best students and graduates from the most influential and inspiring universities around the world, Graduate Fashion Week represents the future of creative design talent. Attracting 30,000 guests each June, the annual event features 22 catwalk shows, exhibitions from more than 40 universities and an acclaimed Gala Award Show.

An unrivalled platform for the promotion of new talent, Graduate Fashion Week bridges the gap between graduation and employment and is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most successful designers of our time including Christopher Bailey, who was the winner of the first ever Graduate Fashion Week Gold Award, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson and Julien Macdonald.

Posted on Thursday 9th June 2016

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