Dazzling shoe designs win coveted fashion award for DMU student


Dazzling shoe designs with a playful twist won a coveted fashion award for a gifted student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).


Master of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers Jeremy Blanford, Nicholas Kirkwood and Rachel. 

Talented Rachel Hamill was named National Footwear Student of the Year at a glitzy ceremony in London which turned into a night of triumph for DMU. Students from the Footwear Design degree course walked off with three of the five prizes up for grabs at the awards, run by the The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.

“I still can’t believe I won,” said Rachel, who received her award from international shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood. “Honestly, I was so overwhelmed when they announced my name. I was shaking.

“This is not just recognition for me, but for DMU. This is the first time we have won. I’m over the moon, not just for me and my tutors but for everyone on the course.


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The 23-year-old from County Armagh wowed the panel of judges with designs with a doll’s house theme.

“My designs are always fun and colourful – and I think that’s what won it for me.

“My portfolio was inspired by the Victorian architecture in Birmingham and London. There are a lot of buildings that look like dolls’ houses and that became my theme.

“I actually started off as an architecture student in Belfast but decided it wasn’t for me. I took an arts foundation course instead, and my tutor told me there was a really good course in footwear at DMU.

“I hadn’t even thought of footwear design at the time, but I love it. When I was younger and people used to say to me ‘what do you want to do?’ I used to tell them I wanted to be a designer, but I didn’t know what kind of designer. Now I know.” 

Students Joanna Eden and Yoon Yi Lee completed a footwear hat-trick for DMU by claiming two commendations at the awards ceremony at the Clothworkers’ Hall, London last night (THURS JUN 8).

Joanna, 22, of Southampton, submitted a portfolio of designs inspired by nature, growth, renewal and decay – which aimed to pique the interest and capture the imagination of the judges.

“I was inspired by biomimicry, with a focus on fungus, which can be quite beautiful, and elements of nature like peeling bark.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t in my comfort zone. I wanted to engage people and make them wonder about the design.

“This award gives me the opportunity to prove myself as a designer, and shows people believe in me.”  

Yoon Yi Lee, 22, caught the eye of the judges with an entry influenced by her South Korean home.

“I put some of my heritage into my design. It was conceptual, and featured astronomical instruments, like a sundial.”

Her runners-up award caps a memorable week for Yoon Yi, who was also named runner-up in the YKK Accessories Award at Graduate Fashion Week.

“It was so surreal to be a runner-up at the Cordwainers awards. I was so happy.  I couldn’t believe it.”

Steve Weston, Head of Footwear Design at DMU, said: “The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers are incredibly supportive towards our Footwear Design students at DMU and their encouragement of young footwear talent across the whole of the country.

“Their contribution such as this prestigious design award really makes a difference to students kick-starting their careers in the dynamic global footwear industry.  

“We were all extremely proud of the creativity, diversity of design influence and professional execution of the presentation portfolios delivered from all of our DMU Footwear design students for inclusion to the awards.”

Rachel paid tribute to her tutors at DMU, saying they encourage students to express themselves.

“The course allows us to be as creative as we want,” she said. “I have learned so much from Steve Weston and my other tutors.”

She will use a large chunk of her £5,000 prize to launch her own footwear label, called Rachel Rose, and plans to splurge the rest on a treat for her parents. “I would love to treat my parents to a break away as they have been so supportive throughout it all,” she said.

The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers is one of the oldest livery companies in London, with roots dating back to 1272.

The annual awards were launched in 2014 to celebrate young footwear design talent. They are contested by the ‘footwear universities’ of the UK - DMU, Northampton and Cordwainers at the University of the Arts, London. 

Posted on Friday 9th June 2017

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