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Innovative DMU grads win prestigious fashion awards


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Gothic shoe designs and technical fashion drawings have earned talented graduates from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) coveted awards from the Graduate Fashion Foundation (GFF).

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Coronavirus left Footwear Design graduate Hyunjee Park and Fashion Design graduate Emelia Johnson unable to complete their final collections and prototypes, but they were celebrated for their innovative digital works during an event which was streamed live last night.

Hyunjee won the Footwear Award sponsored by Size?. She impressed judges at GFF – one of the biggest platforms for new talent - with her capsule collection of digital drawings for high heel, mid heel and trainer designs.

Her high heel design is modelled on the exterior of gothic architecture with sharp edges such as a pointy toe and a powerful aesthetic. Her mid-heel and trainer designs are inspired by the interior structures, mirroring arched window designs and the smooth lines of a triforium.

“It’s incredible. I still can’t believe I won, I was honestly just honoured to be shortlisted,” said the 23-year-old from Seoul, South Korea.

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“When coronavirus forced DMU to close, I spent two weeks feeling demotivated. The GFF nomination really helped to motivate me again and gave me my confidence back.”

After submitting her work, Hyunjee was invited to an interview with the judges to talk about her concept. She explained that if going into production she would use a variety of materials, including sustainably sourced leather such as vegetable-tanned leather.

She said: “I was really nervous, but they were so kind and encouraging that I felt really good about myself by the end.

Emelia scooped The Fashion Technical Drawing Award, which recognises the important role technical flat lay digital drawings play within the industry’s design and manufacturing roles.

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“It’s amazing to finally have something to celebrate during what’s been a tough year,” said the 22-year-old from Market Harborough.

“I found the interview with the GFF panel very exciting. It’s something I’ve never done before and getting feedback from respected industry professionals was really encouraging.”

Emelia’s technical drawings are based on a collection inspired by treating old and vintage garments or fabrics as a blank canvas.

As well as experimenting with paints and laser-cutting techniques, she utilised screws and bolts as fastenings to create transferable design features such as pockets and to allow for an adjustable fit.

She said: “Although dealing with the pandemic has been challenging, it forced me out of my comfort zone, helping me to become more resilient. It was a wake-up call in a good way.”

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Hyunjee credits DMU with her growth both personally and as a designer. Through DMU Global - the university’s international experience programme – she took free French language lessons for the duration of her degree and also had the chance to visit leading shoe factories and museums in Spain.

“What I learned on the trip actually made me start using DMU’s workshops more. All of them – wood, metal, textiles, plastic – are fantastic and the technicians support you a lot,” she said.

After carefully researching footwear courses across Europe and America, Hyunjee chose to study at DMU. She said: “It was the only university that seemed to support students with everything, from its amazing facilities to helping with costs of tools and materials.

“Even now that I’ve graduated I get regular emails to check how I am doing and to let me know what support is available to help me find a job. Leicester is a very friendly city and it felt like a second home. I really miss it already.”

Posted on Wednesday 23rd September 2020

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