University of Northampton student wins first prize in the inaugural Cordwainers’ Footwear Student of the Year Awards

Date 16.11.2015

Shoe designer and University of Northampton student, Helen Kirkum, has won first prize at the inaugural Cordwainers’ Footwear Student of the Year Awards.

The awards dinner was hosted by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers on 16 May and was attended by leading lights from industry and education. The Footwear Student of the Year Awards saw students from the three leading universities – the University of Northampton, London College of Fashion (part of the University of the Arts, London) and De Montfort University – offering footwear design degree courses vying to carry off the cash prizes and the high-profile exposure across the industry.

The prizes were awarded by the celebrated couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo. Representatives from Marks & Spencer, Pentland Brands, Schuh and Spring Line were among the industry guests congratulating the winners.

Helen said: “I’m just thrilled and so grateful to the Cordwainers and my course tutors – my ambition is to launch my own men’s footwear brand. This unique footwear competition really pushed me to create a product that was both innovative and commercially viable.”

Katie Greenyer, Creative Director, Pentland Brands, who led the judging panel, said: “We were in awe of the work in front of us from the best crop of footwear designers globally. Helen Kirkum’s entry was an exceptional proposition.”

Caroline Southernwood, Senior Lecturer at the University of Northampton and Liveryman of the Cordwainers Company said: “The Cordwainers Footwear Student of the Year Award is a new and specialist footwear award, which will showcase the talents of the next generation of footwear designers. An amazing opportunity – thank you to the Cordwainers Company.”

Each student entering the competition was invited to produce a design for a new shoe. The three universities involved shortlisted their five top entrants and these were then judged by an independent panel of industry experts comprising Katie Greenyer, Guy West and Atalanta Weller.

The new award has been introduced by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, the London livery company with roots in shoemaking and fine leather work, which today supports footwear education and charitable activities.

The competition marks a new era for the Cordwainers’ Company, as it is the first time it has spearheaded a national award. For many years the Cordwainers’ Company has been the leading supporter of footwear courses at UK universities by providing much needed scholarships and bursaries.

John Miller, Clerk of the Cordwainers’ Company, said: “We are delighted to launch this new national award for the very best footwear design students from these three great universities. We believe this will help Britain to maintain its position as the world leader in the design and manufacture of footwear.”

Watch the Helen receiving her award in the Cordwainers’ video​ of the evening

Photo copyright: Mark Witter Photography