Knitwear designs evoking optical illusions have led to a landslide victory in the Fashanne People’s Choice Award for a graduate from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
Nicole Stavrou – who has just graduated with a First in Textile Design – beat 60 other finalists with an impressive 9,335 votes, earning £100 and a VIP opportunity to showcase her work at next year’s Fashanne event.
The 21-year-old from London said: “I just can’t believe it – it’s a dream come true. Coming from a Greek Cypriot family, I have a lot of people who got behind me and the word just spread around.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who voted for me and I’m really happy to have the designs I’ve worked so hard on recognised like this. With this year’s event being cancelled, I’m excited for the chance to show my designs to industry professionals next year and hope that something comes out of that.”
Experimenting with structured knits and a range of yarns, Nicole has created bold and complex structures which evoke optical illusions. The idea spiralled from her in-depth research into mental health and desire to make something that embraces people's differences.
“Visiting a Bridget Riley exhibition really inspired me. One particular piece has a zig-zag spiral effect and even though it’s 2D and in black and white, I felt movement and I could see colour,” she said.
“I knew then that I had to recreate it in knit. I made the design my own in Photoshop, added pops of colour and knitted it up on the jacquard machine. It took a few attempts to get it exactly how I wanted it, but I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
Since winning her award, Nicole has been contacted on Instagram by a big company that is interested in incorporating her designs into a range of garments.
She said: “I haven’t decided if I’m going to go for it, but it feels amazing to have been approached. It would be such a good opportunity to develop my skills.”
Nicole’s way of working enabled her to complete all of her design samples before DMU had to close its doors due to the government's lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I can visualise my fabric and make it up without having to sketch anything out first, which was definitely an advantage this year,” she said.
“It meant that with all of my designs physically done, I could spend lockdown working on my sketchbook and portfolio, without panicking about not having access to uni’s facilities.
“Our tutors have been great though. They’ve been just an email or Zoom call away to offer advice and guidance. They also changed our brief to make it more achievable and gave us a two-week extension on our projects.”
Having joined DMU straight after her A-levels without a solid foundation in textile design, Nicole found the first year of her degree a challenge.
She said: “I feel like I’ve progressed drastically from where I started, to graduating with a First. In my first year I was questioning my choice of degree, but thanks to all the support I had and learning from the mistakes I made, I now feel like I’m a specialist in my field.”
A clear turning point for Nicole, was the opportunity to visit Paris during the second year of her degree. She and a number of coursemates were picked to showcase their work at Premiere Vision, a prominent exhibition connecting international players in the fashion industry with new designers.
“I’m going to really miss DMU - it was my first choice from the start. When I went to an Open Day I fell in love with the gorgeous Vijay Patel Building and I just knew DMU was the one,” she said.
“I gained a lot of independence at university. From working in the studio until the early hours with my friends to the brilliant night life, I’ll miss everything about it.”
Nick Rodgers, course leader for Textile Design at DMU, said: “This is a wonderful award that recognises the innovation and skill that Nicole has developed.
“She has explored a highly technical approach to knit design and combined this with her commitment to raising awareness of mental health issues. It is great to see that this has been recognised by the public who voted for her.”
See more of Nicole’s award-winning collection on YouTube and watch her reaction (at 17:48) when BBC East Midlands Today news presenter Anne Davies - the founder of Fashanne – called her with the good news.
Posted on Tuesday 18th August 2020