No less than five footwear designers from the University of Northampton are in the running for a prestigious national award.
Footwear & Accessories undergraduates Nicholas Fowler-Ekar, Anna Melegh, Faizal Mohammed, Monica Bateman and Maisie Thompson have all made the shortlist for the Cordwainer Footwear Student of the Year title.
The awards were set up in 2014 by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers to celebrate the best upcoming shoe designers in the UK.
The very first winner of the award was the University of Northampton’s Helen Kirkum, who is one of this year’s judges – read more about her story.
Nicholas Fowler-Ekar’s design
This is the second year running that Nicholas has been nominated for the award. The final year student from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was shortlisted for his high-top trainers which were influenced by the concept of light.
His original concept stemmed from depression and mental health, and the saying that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
This led him to explore how light interacts, and his sneakers have sharp angles incorporated into the design, plus a window located just above the trainer’s toe cap.
Nicholas said: “I’m really excited to have been shortlisted for the second year running. It’s a real honour and it is nice to have this recognition for my work.”
Monica Bateman’s design
Fellow third year student, Monica, who comes from Milton Keynes, has designed a pair of boots influenced by the plight of refugees and displaced people.
She said: “I was inspired by an image of some refugees huddled together, wrapped in a silver foil thermal blanket. I used a similar material to represent the blanket, and stitched on pieces of leather which echo, in an abstract way, the way the refugees are gripping the blanket and holding on to each other.”
Monica added: “I can’t wait for the awards. I was nominated for one last year and that was a really great occasion and a little overwhelming with lots of media there, so this year I’ll know what to expect.”
Faizal Mohammed’s design
Faizal, meanwhile, has been shortlisted for his futuristic sneakers concept.
The second year undergraduate from Chennai, India, has printed a fingerprint design on the footwear, plus wires on the soles.
He said: “My idea is about the footwear of the future. I’ve imagined a world where people will be able to use their fingerprints to ‘unlock’ their shoes via an app, which will then unlace them automatically. The wires in the soles are for future technologies which could inflate and adjust the inside of the sneakers to make them the perfect, personalised pair.
“I was influenced by the futuristic use of technology and how tracking can suppress society. I watched the Black Mirror TV series which had quite a similar concept of what the future could be.”
Faizal added: “I am so excited about my nomination. I am so grateful to my tutors for helping me to develop my skills. This is small opportunity that could lead to major career opportunities in the future.”
Fellow second year student, Anna, has produced a pair of Budapester-style brogues inspired by her home city of Budapest.
They feature her hand-drawn collage of windows from historic buildings in the Hungarian capital dating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Anna made the leather herself, which she then spray painted and engraved with her own hand-drawn motifs.
Anna said: “It feels good to have been nominated. It’s such a great opportunity for me and great recognition for my work.”
Maisie Thompson’s design
Second year student, Maisie, has created a pair of shoes inspired by the theme of retro futurism.
She said: “Retro futurism portrays a romanticised view of the future, and I was inspired by the 1980s movement which was based on power dressing, everything being glossy and optimistic.”
Maisie’s design was created from matt leather, with day-glow acrylic. She said: “The leather was untreated and it really shows up the textures, which catches the light, while the acrylic does the same.”
Maisie added: “It’s great that I’ve been nominated for the award and I’m really happy to be shortlisted. I didn’t do as well as I could have in my first year, so I worked hard to catch up this year and it’s nice to see my ideas and work validated by industry judges.”
The Cordwainer Footwear Student of the Year awards take place in London on Thursday 6 June.