Alumna of the month – Ana Del Rio Mullarkey

After finishing her final assignments in June, and since then receiving numerous awards, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student (and soon to be graduate) Ana Del Rio Mullarkey is looking ahead to life after graduation.


For many students, their final year is filled with assignments and exams, but for Ana the work continued with an exhibit of her work at the Art and Design Degree Show, and creating a collection for Graduate Fashion Week.


After securing a top prize as the winner of the Fashion Innovation Award at Graduate Fashion Week and also the Leathersellers' Design Award 2023, Ana is now figuring out her next steps as a graduate of Fashion Design.

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Ana with her Fashion Innovation Award at Graduate Fashion Week

While applying for jobs in her specialism of leather, Ana is spending her free time using the DMU’s award-winning facilities to continue creating, honing her craft, and developing her collection for the project Artifacts Live: A Legacy in Leather. The project is a collaboration between DMU and the Museum of Leathercraft. Read more about Ana’s involvement here.


Back in 2016, Ana made the decision to move to the UK from Spain where she was born and raised to pursue her dream of a career in fashion.


Reflecting on her journey of choosing DMU, Ana said: “When I was applying to universities, I didn’t ever have a favourite. I had applied to four universities and my mum encouraged me to choose a fifth option. I heard good things about DMU, its new building and the fact that fashion students had won awards, so I decided to apply without even attending an Open Day.


“The first time I came to campus was my interview and it was love at first sight. I just knew I wanted to be in the Vijay Patel Building every day and I wished I could stop my A-Levels and start straight away!


“There was such a good sense of community and after the interview I received an unconditional offer, so I actually cancelled all my other interviews because I just knew DMU was the place for me.”

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Ana's final year collection

Ana will be graduating in September alongside her coursemates who faced challenges when Covid-19 restrictions meant they were unable to access their course facilities. With her heart set on a placement year, Ana feared that the pandemic would make this impossible.


“I was so lucky to still go on a placement with a company called 3RD ROCK Clothing who create sustainable activewear. In the end, I was still able to do a lot of this placement work in person and I learned so much that I’ve been able to implement now in my work with leather, like construction, fit, design, development decisions and so much more.


“By the end of the placement year, I was actually sourcing models and directing photoshoots. It was incredible to be given that responsibility and obviously to learn about all these different aspects of a company. It taught me so much about the different elements of fashion other than designing clothes and I’m still learning those skills now.


“Not in the near future, but someday I would love to have my own brand. I feel like I have an entrepreneurial spirit and now I’ve found my niche with leather it feels like I could bring something unique to the fashion industry. But I want to be realistic, and I know I still have so much to learn before starting a business.”

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Polaroid pictures showing the behind the scenes of Ana's placement with 3RD ROCK Clothing

During the pandemic, and when she was working on her final projects, Ana found that the support of the teaching staff and the technicians made all the difference and were there for emotional support as well as academic guidance.


“Even though home is overseas in Spain and there’s been times, especially during the pandemic, where I wasn’t able to go home for two years, I’ve never felt homesick. Everyone is just so friendly and supportive, whether it’s students, a technician or someone walking through campus with a smile, I’ve always felt so comfortable and happy here.”


While Ana is applying to jobs across the world, she has made the most of still being in Leicester and all the opportunities that have come her way. As well as Graduate Fashion Week, she has already attended an alumni event, been to networking events and met with business owners.


“I know that whatever happens, I can always come back to DMU. There are so many options I could make the most of like the crucible project, joining the Innovation Centre or chatting to the Careers Team. I feel really supported as a graduate.”


With graduation ceremonies just around the corner in September, Ana will be among the thousands of students celebrating their achievements as they cross the stage and collect their degree certificate.


“I’m really excited for graduation. It will be nice to have an actual day where my coursemates and I get to sit back and really celebrate. I found the months of my final year just flew by and you don’t always really acknowledge what you’ve achieved, so it will be so nice to enjoy that as a year group.


“My parents are going to fly over for my graduation and it’s going to be amazing to celebrate with them. They came to Graduate Fashion Week, but it was such a busy time I felt like I didn’t get to fully experience it with them, so I think graduation will be the main day for that – I don’t think I could have completed my degree without them.

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Ana with a friend she made at DMU

Many who graduate feel uncertain of what to do next, and we encourage all to join the DMU Alumni Hub, to connect with other graduates and discover a support network for finding jobs, opportunities to collaborate on work projects, information on events and much more.


When asked for her advice, Ana said: “My advice for new students is to be open minded and open to anything. Try not to limit yourself because there are so many opportunities and it’s good to explore new things and discover what you’re interested in.


“For those who are also graduating, I think my advice would be to put yourself out there and even if you have had to move back home and feel a bit lost, try looking up networking opportunities or find events or activities that link to the industry you are passionate about.


“You never know when chatting to someone might open a door for you and even if you reach out to someone on Instagram or LinkedIn, there’s lots of ways to get out there. I’m in the same boat, feeling uncertain about what my next steps will be, but meeting new people and staying connected gives me hope and keeps me positive.”

Posted on Tuesday 1 August 2023

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