Sustainable leather designs earn DMU students prestigious prizes

Using leather in innovative and sustainable ways has earned De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students prestigious prizes from a historic livery company.

Overall winner Ellie Jones' design

Founded by royal charter in 1444 to control the sale of leather in London, and now devoted to supporting charity and education around the British leather trade, The Leathersellers’ Company set a live brief for final-year DMU students across fashion, textiles, art, design and architecture subjects.

Students were encouraged to ‘think outside of the box’ to showcase creative and technologically enhanced uses of leather within their designs, and were fully briefed during an online lecture with leading leatherseller Alistair Tusting.

Altogether, 18 prizes were up for grabs totalling £5,000. Contour Fashion student Ellie Jones scooped £1,000 as the first prize winner, after impressing the judges by utilising cutting-edge technology to create a hooded cowl neck playsuit and hooded cropped jacket in suede leather.

Ellie, whose surface print design was inspired by the relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and the skeletal structure, used technologically advanced printing methods, including GRDXKN®.


Also known as ‘grid-skin’, GRDXKN® is a newly invented technical ink, which becomes a flexible polyurethane foam when activated by heat.

By applying GRDXKN® to her garments, Ellie was successful in achieving a 3D embossed effect - with non-slip, stabilising, sound-refracting, insulating and shock inhibiting qualities - giving a contemporary edge to a traditional textile.

She said: “It’s amazing. I’m so grateful to have been selected as the winner of such an exceptional prize, especially given the calibre of all the finalists.”

“I’m also incredibly thankful to Munich-based founder of GRDXKN®, Bastian Müller. I discovered the technology through Pinterest, and after approaching Bastian, he agreed to support my studies with such authenticity and willingness.”

“Our collaboration consisted of months of video calls, learning about the grid-skin print process, design development, sampling, final print production, as well as shipping fabrics and prints between countries. I couldn’t have asked for a better working relationship during a global pandemic.”


Head judge Alistair Tusting, said: “DMU students have once again risen to the challenge, showing their creative skills in the use of leather across many different disciplines.

“Our main prize winner Ellie Jones demonstrated real innovation to combine leather with new printing technologies, creating finished garments with an understanding of how they could be developed into commercial products.

“In view of the real difficulties in running the awards during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d like to thank the team at DMU, along with the students, for their enthusiasm in making this such a success for the university and The Leathersellers’ Company.”

Ryan Roddy impressed the judges with his shoe design

Second prize winner Ryan Roddy was rewarded with £500 for his a formal high-end men’s shoe, inspired by original football boot designs.

“I was buzzing to win. It’s given me extra confidence and the cash is always welcome as an emerging designer,” he said.

“For my research and inspiration I looked to combine elements of modern football boots with materials used in the original designs, such as kangaroo and stag leather.

Earlier this year, the Footwear Design student won the international Prospect 100 Global Design Competition. It led to valuable exposure, with features in Vogue, High Snobiety, WWD and Tred, as well as a six-month mentoring programme with renowned sneaker designer Jeff Staple.

Sustainable and luxurious bag design by Gabrielle Nwenwu and Zara Roberts

A luxury basket bag made by weaving leather earned best friends Gabrielle Nwenwu and Zara Roberts a joint second prize.

Fashion Buying with Design student Gabrielle said: “We wanted to create something reusable for when you’re out shopping, but that looks luxurious at the same time. I’m really proud that we got second place. It was really challenging but I’m so glad we did it.”

Zara Roberts, a Fashion Buying with Marketing student, said: “I had never done anything like this before and I found the process really interesting and enjoyable. It was a bonus getting to share the experience with my best friend.”

Other prize winners include Contour Fashion student Elisha Quarman, Fashion Textile Design student Penny Kowalkowski, Design Crafts student Isabella Kelley and Textile Design student Charlie Jones.

Posted on Monday 16 August 2021

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