Footwear Design students win big in prestigious national competition


Footwear Design students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) say they are ‘surprised’ and ‘overwhelmed’ after winning awards in a prestigious national competition.

Final year designers Ellie Gray and Jiwon Joung came second and third in the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers’ National Footwear Student of the Year Awards 2020 after rising to the challenge to design and create ‘an innovative and marketable’ shoe.

Ellie came second with her design called Archangel, which had a split insole and midsole and was influenced by the idea of physical and structural contortion.


Jiwon came third with her hand-stitched ankle boot design, called Gap, which was influenced by architect David Nish and painter/designer Ronan Bouroullec.

FOOTWEAR  - JIWON shoe two

Ellie said: “It is amazing to be second in such a prestigious competition. I was surprised but also relieved to see all the hard work pay off.”

Jiwon added: “I am so happy and a bit overwhelmed to win this prize.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students had to submit their portfolios digitally and the winners were announced in a short video by competition judge Katie Greenyer, who said: “What incredible work! We thoroughly enjoyed going through all your submissions. In such difficult circumstances, you delivered.’


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Supporting footwear education is at the heart of the Cordwainers’ charitable giving and the Company has awarded prizes totalling nearly £12,000 to recognise the achievements of the winners. The Cordwainers are planning to hand out the awards at a ceremony once the COVID-19 restrictions allow.

It is not the first time Ellie and Jiwon have been rewarded by Cordwainers. The two students were sponsored on a trip for a week to Los Angeles to work for famous shoe company TOMS, which runs a business model in which a person in need is helped with every purchase made.


Jiwon and Ellie during their sponsored trip to TOMS in Los Angeles

Ellie said: “I was inspired by the idea of contortion and wanted to create a shoe that was sculptural as well as functional. I looked at the work of the architect Zahar Hadid and considered how the heel can manipulate the body when you wear it.

“Whenever you see heels on shoes they are quite similar in design so I wanted to experiment by splitting the insole and the midsole. I am so happy to win an award. It was a lot of work completing the degree.


Ellie working on shoe designs at DMU before lockdown

“But I can say my time studying at DMU was probably the best three years of my life so far. Everybody on the course is so passionate and motivated. Everyone on the course is close and I have missed them all during lockdown.”

Jiwon, who is originally from Seoul, South Korea, has been spending lockdown in DMU accommodation. She said: “At the time that I was preparing to submit my prototype I kept on thinking ‘please can I just have another week’. There is always more you want to do. But I met the deadline and I am so happy to have been awarded the third prize in a national competition.

“I learned how to do leathercraft before I started the course at DMU and I much prefer to hand stitch than use a machine. I find a machine leaves a mark on the leather. I was trying to create an organic feel to the boot and drew on the work of the sculptor David Nish and the paintings of the designer Ronan Bouroullec.


Jiwon has loved her time at DMU

“I always look for more unconventional influences when it comes to designing.

“I definitely want a career in footwear design and I have really enjoyed my time at DMU. I am passionate about the subject. I loved the fact that I had access to so much equipment to help me complete the course.”

Nanette Westberg-Brown, Programme Course Leader for Footwear Design at DMU, said: “It is wonderful to see Ellie and Jiwon’s hard work rewarded in this way and it is fantastic to see DMU students occupying two of the three top spots in such a prestigious national competition.

“We wish them and every third-year student the best of luck with their future careers. We are excited to see what they all do next.”


Master of the Cordwainers Nigel Easton said: “The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers is proud to support the British footwear industry and every year gives away more than £100,000 in bursaries, scholarships and awards to students and makers of footwear and leather goods.

“This year, more than ever, we are grateful to everyone who has enabled our annual awards to go ahead, almost as normal, by harnessing online technology. We hope very much to be able to celebrate the winners’ success with them in person, later in the year.”


Elements of the winning portfolios, including the work of Ellie and Jiwon, can be viewed here 


Posted on Friday 12th June 2020

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