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National award winners Charlie and Natasha set for bright future in fashion

Date 28.06.2021

Two creatives have completed their time at the University of Northampton on a high, after winning at the most coveted student fashion awards ceremony in the UK.

Charlie Irwin and Natasha Finlay were both award winners at Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) – an annual showcase of the cream of the UK’s university fashion talent.

Footwear & Accessories student, Charlie Irwin, scooped two GFW awards, after he came first in both the Footwear Award and the TU Challenge 21 category.

The 24 year old, who is from Gretton, Northamptonshire, impressed judges with his boots and gaiters, which were created from damaged and abandoned items.

“I’m still in a bit of disbelief, but it feels very reassuring to know my hard work is paying off,” said Charlie.

“I think I impressed the judges through a combination of a broad spectrum of research, which helped reinforce my project with authenticity, as well as being grounded in relevant market awareness.”

Charlie's concepts for Graduate Fashion Week.

Charlie’s concepts for Graduate Fashion Week.

Now he’s come to the end of his course, Charlie’s looking forward to entering the footwear industry – something he feels ready for after three years of training at the University.

He said: “I have learnt vast amounts in my three years. From the fundamental building blocks of footwear & accessories design through to manufacture. Then going on to refine these skills and build upon them, always learning new techniques, keeping up to date with software, all to ensure the outcome is as refined and functional as it can possibly be.”

Natasha Finlay's winning designs on the GFW catwalk.

Natasha Finlay’s winning designs on the GFW catwalk.

Textiles for Fashion student, Natasha, scooped the Accessories Award after creating a textile print collection inspired by the odd and weird dreams she experienced during the pandemic.

Her collection was also chosen for the GFW finale – the Best of Graduate Fashion Week show.

The 22 year old, who comes from Milton Keynes, said: “It feels amazing to win the award. I am absolutely over the moon that the judges loved my work as much as I do and it makes me feel really confident to think they see something in me that was worth the win.”

Natasha added: “I think the originality of my concept and my designs really appealed to the judges. Also, all my work has been backed up with a lot of research I had done for future trends and I think I managed to design accessories which embodied the future of fashion. I think the fact that I didn’t hold back from my design also excited them.”

Looking back on her three years at Northampton, Natasha said: “I have learnt so much since being at uni, not only in myself but as a designer. I have definitely grown as a person and realised that being yourself is so important and, as long and you love with you do, it will show through your work. I have enjoyed every minute of it, even if it has been a hard experience.”

Senior Lecturer in Fashion, Jane Mills, said: “We are incredibly proud of Charlie and Natasha, who were rightly singled out by the judges for their work.

“A Graduate Fashion Week award is a huge deal. They are recognised by industry and if you win one, or even two, it’s confirmation that you are one of the very best graduate designers in the United Kingdom.

“We have a proud track record of GFW winners, over the years, and it’s particularly pleasing to see us pick up three awards after what has been a difficult year, due to the lockdowns.

“All of our students have worked extra hard, and it’s satisfying to see that by studying with us, they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and leave us ready for industry.”

Watch the UON catwalk show, below.

Read Fashion United’s review of UON’s GFW catwalk show.