A DMU Footwear Design student has walked away with the top prize at the prestigious Cordwainers Footwear Awards in London and into a job with luxury fashion house Alexander McQueen.
Sam Lilley’s Cordwainers award was presented after he impressed judges which included Joachim Sedelmeier, head of shoe design at Paul Smith, designers Charlotte Olympia Dellal and Beatrix Ong and Katie Greenyer, creative director at Pentland Brands, which has Lacoste, Kickers, Ellesse and Berghaus on its roster.
And now he is preparing to move to London with his prestigious job at Alexander McQueen as a graduate trainee footwear designer.
Sam, who is originally from Sheffield, was shocked when he was told he had won the Cordwainers' award. “It was amazing to hear my name called out but I really, honestly did not expect to win,” he said.
“They got down to the last award and I had looked at other people’s work beforehand and I had my money on someone else!
“Then they started describing the winner and I thought ‘this sounds a bit familiar’. It means my work gets seen by so many people who are important to the footwear industry. That is the best part of winning. This can open so many doors for me in the future.”
Sam’s project was called Neofuturism - influenced by the architectural movement - and he applied that school’s principals of ethics, aesthetics and innovation, to produce a men’s high heel shoe.
The concept incorporates innovations such as wrapping the heel in graphene, a relatively new material which is stronger than diamond but can stretch like rubber, ethics looked at the appeal for a men’s shoe which drew its influences from the LGBTQ+ community, and the aesthetics were achieved through the slick futuristic design.
Sam said: “I like a lot of the futuristic footwear at the moment and Evan Belforti, who designs unisex footwear for Reebok, is the first influence that springs to mind.”
Sam ended up studying at DMU after his dad spotted the course while they were going through application processes.
“I went to the Open Day and DMU was right up my street,” he said. “I asked the tutors about making a pair of trainers – I wanted to be a trainer designer - and they were able to answer all my questions and give me good answers.
“Then when I came to DMU I was really impressed. Everything I needed in terms of equipment was here and the tutors were great – really friendly – and they all had industry experience.”
Sam admitted that the second year of his course was tough during COVID due to the lack of interaction and that it felt a bit like ‘sleep, work, repeat’.
“But it made me appreciate so much more what contact and teaching meant to me when we were all back in the third year,” he adds.
Sam says he cannot wait to get started in his new job at ALexander McQueen. “I’m really excited,” he said. “London is my favourite city in the UK. I can’t wait.”
The Cordwainers Footwear Awards were established in 2014 by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, to support the future of the shoe industry by celebrating and encouraging young footwear talent.
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers’ roots date back to 1272, and the first Charter in 1439 licensed Cordwainers to control the shoe trade within the City of London.
Today, the Cordwainers have a strong charitable ethos and the primary focus is to nurture young talent in the fashion and shoemaking industries.
Posted on Friday 17th June 2022