Ana's designs help her stand out as a fashion innovator

Medieval doors, boxes, even cutlery from a flea market – all have inspired the winner of this year’s Fashion Innovation Award at the 2023 Graduate Fashion Week, Europe’s biggest showcase for young designers.

Ana Del Rio Mullarkey won the coveted award for an incredible, innovative collection all made from sustainable leather. “I’ve found my passion in working with leather,” she said. “It’s timeless and garments last a lifetime.”


Since earlier this year Ana has been part of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Artifacts Live; A Legacy In Leather project. DMU teamed up with the Museum of Leathercraft which loaned historic items from its archives to inspire students to create new work.

Ana chose a rare leather Spanish fan and a mysterious, 14th century small strongbox as her inspirational items. Months spent learning traditional skills has resulted in fantastically detailed and intricate touches to her whole collection, which wowed the judges at Graduate Fashion Week.

The Fashion Innovation award is given to the student whose designs “illustrate the ground breaking thinking that the UK is renowned for”.
Entries are received from universities across the UK, and students have to submit a digital collection for shortlisting. Once selected, they have an interview at fashion week and present to the judges before winners are revealed at a special event held as part of GFW in London.

Ana said: “The Fashion Innovation Award’ was the last to be announced and I was feeling the pressure because we were all just waiting to hear and when they said my name, I just burst into tears. I could not stop crying. It was all so lovely, and my parents were there to see it all which meant so much, it was amazing.”

Her collection - which includes fantastically detailed and intricate stitching - included a dress made from offcut panels from shoe making that would normally have gone to waste, a skirt embellished with knives, forks and spoons all intricately made from leather and stitched jackets.

“I’m so pleased with the way it turned out,” she said. “Leather is normally mostly used in accessories, it’s always in bags and shoes but you don’t see it so much in clothing and I think that’s a shame because you can do so much with leather. It gets better as it ages, if you look in vintage shops and see leather jackets they are aged and beautiful.”

As part of Artifacts Live, the students have had masterclasses at the university, visited world-famous brands like Mulberry, seen processes in tanneries and met artisan leather crafters in their studios, including designer Bill Amberg whose clients including Louboutin, Montblanc and Aston Martin.
Ana said: “The experience has taught me so much, and the whole project is a great experience to be part of.”


Associate Professor Gillian Proctor has led the Artifacts Live project working with contacts at the Museum of Leathercraft

She said: “I cannot express how delighted I am for Ana to be awarded this accolade. She grasped the concept of exploring artisanal hand skills with in the leather industry with both hands and has spent an inordinate amount of time, patience and effort trialling leather techniques.

"This has fired up her imagination and enthusiasm as the project intended. Without utilising these centuries old skills, we are in danger of losing a generation of skilled leather workers. Ana has found her metier. All the Artifactor team are delighted for her, she’s a very worthwhile winner."

The Artifacts Live team is Associate Professor Gillian Proctor, Dr Mary O’Neill, Elizabeth Wheelband, Stephen Peachey and Dr Rhianna Briars.

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Posted on Thursday 6th July 2023

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