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DMU students take top prizes at renowned textile design awards


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Final year Fashion and Textile Design student Penny Kowalkowski won one of the top prizes at the prestigious Bradford Textile Society Design Competition Awards, capping off a bumper competition for De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Established in 1893, the Bradford Textile Society is the oldest of its kind in the UK and its competition awards approximately £10,000 in prizes each year.  In total, 11 entries from DMU won prizes or commendations at this year’s awards, continuing the university’s good fortune in the competition.

Storyboard - textiles

Penny’s hybrid leather and knitwear garments proved to be cream of the crop in the Clothworker’s Company Mixed Media category, securing the top prize and £500. The 22-year-old from Stoke combined finely shaped knitwear with leather and heat transfer vinyls to create three unique outfits, which were submitted alongside her digital design boards.

She said: “It took me by complete surprise when I received the email to tell me I’d won. The Bradford Awards attracts thousands of entries from students and independent designers, so to receive that recognition is something I still need to get my head around. I’m just so thrilled.”

The Mixed Media Category measures how much of the material is produced using innovative methods, including the use of new technologies.

Penny DMU

“Throughout my course at DMU, I have focussed predominantly on knitwear and worked on my own shaping technique,” Penny said. “It’s allowed me to explore how knitwear can be paired with different materials, so for my entry, I combined the rigidness of the leather with the stretch and fluidity of knit to produce a very lightweight and flexible material.

“The entry was inspired by the way that people interact with one another. I’ve heavily researched into physical interactions of dance and performance art to inform the shapes that I produce, exploring movement and interlocking shapes formed as couples dance together. To further the idea of interaction I also looked at the bridge of knitwear with intimate apparel using specific garment details to explore ideas that are not usually associated with knitwear.

“Shaping has also proven to be a sustainable approach by resulting in a zero-waste product. It creates a quality product that can last longer. Fast fashion can have a damaging effect on the environment, so it’s time to promote sustainable techniques.”

Recently graduated Textile Design student Gabriella Huck won second place in the same category for her innovative acoustic fabric, which is created through a process called pleating and is particularly efficient at absorbing sounds.

Gabriella Huck

Pleating involves folding fabrics into different shapes to create alterations in its texture and volume. The fabric is sandwiched between two pieces of card and folded into shape.

This year has proven to be particularly successful for the 27-year-old from Rugby, who, aside from her success at the Bradford Awards, claimed one of the top prizes at DMU’s  Christopherson Fashion Textiles Awards and secured grant funding from Roadley for a sustainable textiles project.

“I never tend to win anything,” said Gabriella. “So, to win two awards this year and then to receive such recognition from a company as prestigious as Bradford is certainly something I’m very proud of.

“Usually, acoustic fabrics are created through the conventional methods such as printing, knitting or weaving. As my fabric was instead created through a mixture of folding and pleating, I was confident that it would stand out against others.

Textiles dmu

“Working through lockdown taught me a lot, especially how to portray practical like textile design online, which I needed to hone in one during these awards. The course at DMU played a big role, from the support of my pleating technique to preparing me for the industry, I’ve been really impressed.

“To secure second prize has already boosted my career prospects. I've started doing some freelance commissions with a couple of clients on board, and now I have got a graduate placement role, so that will only bolster my confidence. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll own my own consultancy.”

There were also third prizes for Helli Patel and Alexandra Weatherby across the competition, while  Emma Delaney, Serena Nuhu, Hannah MacCraig, Shivani Ganatra and Eve Moissard all received commendations for their work.

Posted on Friday 27th August 2021

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