Three footwear designers from the University of Northampton are in the running for a clutch of prestigious awards.
Footwear & Accessories undergraduates Nicholas Fowler-Ekar, Hallie Lonsdale and Melissa Francis have all been shortlisted for a Drapers Footwear Award and will also be battling it out for the Cordwainer Footwear Student of the Year title.
Their Programme Leader, Chris Hill, said: “I’m delighted to see Nicholas, Hailee and Melissa shortlisted for these awards – it’s testament to their hard work, creativity and skill.
“To see all three on the shortlist for the Drapers Student Footwear Designer of the Year award is particularly impressive, because it is open to all students in the UK and Ireland and only five get shortlisted – and we have three.”
Melissa Francis’ designs
Melissa Francis’ designs
Third year student Melissa is particularly proud of her shortlisting as she came to the University with limited knowledge about footwear design.
She said: “My first year on the course was very hard work and it took me a long time to get into the swing of things, because I came from an art background, so had so many new things to learn.
“Three years on, I feel I’m now ready for industry, which is testament to how much you learn on the course.”
This isn’t the first time Melissa has caught the eye of industry judges. In 2017 she won a summer work placement with luxury leather goods producer Pittards after impressing the firm with her collection of bags and shoes. Pittards went on to sponsor Melissa, who comes from Brackley, in her third year.
She said: “When I graduate I am going to pursue a job and learn all I can about the industry, with a view to developing my own brand and hopefully, one day, going it alone, full time.”
Visit Melissa’s website.
Second year student Nicholas is a self-confessed trainers addict, and is looking forward to showing off his designs at both award events – one pair are inspired by the dystopian future depicted in Ridley Scott’s sci fi smash Blade Runner.
He said: “I’d always loved football boots when I was growing up, and when I went to college I got into streetwear and trainers.
“Trainers are amazing, the market is so full of innovation and there always seems to be some huge steps forward in the industry. I want to be part of that innovative industry.”
Nicholas almost missed his chance to hone his craft at Northampton, as he explains: “I went to Northumbria University to study fashion design & marketing, but hated it, because by then, I realised that I wanted to specialise in footwear, so I applied to Northampton.
“The course has been everything I hoped it would be. You learn so much, the teaching is amazing, you get to explore design in great depth, the skills you pick up are essential for industry and find out how to organise your time effectively.”
While Nicholas, who comes from Hatfield, is keeping his fingers crossed for an award or two, he’s also just embarked on the opportunity of a lifetime – a four-month internship with Swedish sneaker firm Axel Arigato, in Gothenburg.
Hallie Lonsdale’s design
Final year undergraduate Hallie is also a trainers buff, and started her love affair with footwear from an early age.
She said: “I remember when I was two years old, at my grandma’s, and I would be drawing little shoes and bags for her. That passion has stayed with me. I went on to study fashion at college and it was during my time there that I knew I wanted to work in footwear, and the course at the University of Northampton really stood out for me.
Hallie added: “We are the only university in the UK with a tannery on site, so you have the opportunity to work with leather, which gives you an extra qualification that puts you ahead of the competition when you graduate.”
Two years ago she completed an internship with the British Footwear Association (BFA) at a leading footwear fair in Milan, while earlier this year her work with leather was recognised with a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Curriers. The Curriers Scholarship, which is worth £2,500, is awarded to one third year student annually, giving them the opportunity to experience the leather marketplace, travel to international centres, engage with designers, manufacturers and buyers and really get a feel for the industry. It also allows the student to purchase leather in order to make an imaginative, innovative final collection for their specialist area.
Hallie said: “After graduation I am looking to start my own business, with the support of a footwear consultant who was introduced to us at University. I already have my own website that sells fashion and footwear. This is something that I have started whilst in my final year to help raise money for charity.”
Visit Hallie’s website, Island Temple.