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Campus venue transformed to boost fashion students' career prospects


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An unforgettable campus experience to enhance career prospects for fashion students during the pandemic, has been possible thanks to visionaries at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

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While Covid-19 deprived final-year students of crucial opportunities to physically showcase their designs in front of industry professionals at national events, university staff worked tirelessly to transform The Venue@DMU into an innovative catwalk environment instead.

Pairing industrial materials - such as scaffolding, translucent plastic sheeting and wooden plinths - with clever lighting and projection techniques, they created a stunning structural environment for models to walk through while showcasing student collections.

DMU academics, technicians and events experts brought three separate sets to life and filmed four different catwalk shows over a two-week period, providing Fashion Textile DesignContour Fashion and Fashion Design students with valuable visual content to share with potential employers.

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The concept was the brainchild of Alan Beattie, programme leader for Fashion Textile Design at DMU. He said: “Watching how fashion shows in Milan and Paris adapted during lockdown, I realised we had the space, equipment and talent to create something similar for our students on campus.

“We were able to involve all students, rather than a selection which is required for external shows, and we ended up with total parity for all. So out of nothing came something for everybody.

“Students had no idea what their work would look like on models and to see their designs in motion just brought everything to life for them. It was nice to see smiles on their faces after what has probably been the hardest year of their lives. That was the best bit and that’s why we do it.”

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Fashion Textile Design student Penny Kowalkowski had the chance to showcase her zero-waste womenswear knit collection, which combines structured and drapey elements to fit the form.

The 22-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent said: “It’s been a massive advantage for us to have individual exposure like this. The whole thing was so well thought-out and it was great to see our work come to life on the catwalk.

“The videos will be shared with us so we have something tangible to show employers during interviews. It’s great to be able to prove that you can actually make your designs.”

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Penny Kowalkowski's take on a little black dress using knit fabric

Inspired by traditional Swiss costumes, Contour Fashion student Georgia Haffenden printed her own graphic floral design onto organza and layered it with lace and leather for her lingerie collection.

“It was a refreshing experience and completely different to anything we had done before, which will immediately make our portfolios stand out to employers,” said the 22-year-old from Kent.

“Our tutors spent a lot of time working with the technicians to make sure we were all happy. I helped out behind the scenes and you could see the amount of people it took to make it happen. After a difficult year, it was so lovely.”

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Luxurious lingerie by Georgia Haffenden

Fashion Design student Fiona Cheung presented a sustainable collection which incorporates her original digital designs on patchworked material sourced second hand.

The 22-year-old from Worcestershire said: “Everything was carefully planned and arranged to maximise how each collection looked, from the lighting to the positioning of the models.

“It was an artistic approach done in a unique way, which will really give us an edge as graduates.”

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Fiona Cheung's sustainable approach to high fashion

The four catwalks were filmed using five cameras and DMU technicians were responsible for everything from vision and sound mixing to projections and lighting. Post production, the footage was edited into longer shows, as well as shorter reels that students can share with employers.

James Thompson, a Performance and Events Manager in DMU’s Information Technology and Media Services, said: “Covid presented us with an opportunity to do much more with our own space. It was a really exciting challenge for our team, especially getting to work with a scenic element.

“Collaborating with so many other teams was rewarding and it really shows what we can achieve for future events too. It was a very welcome positive to come out of the pandemic.”

Posted on Monday 9th August 2021

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