With Northampton’s rich heritage of leather tannery’s and footwear factories, it has long been the epicentre of the production of leather goods and shoemaking in the UK. So it is no surprise that the University of Northampton is the home of the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) which is a world leader in the provision of leather technical education and is the only campus in the UK which has a working tannery. Fashion and Accessories Students at Northampton University can learn not only about design but also about leather production and have a clearer understanding of the leather industry. This gives them a clear competitive edge when coming up with their creative designs.

Another notable attribute to this sterling University is the continuing support from The Leathersellers Company and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. The Leathersellers’ Company, an ancient guild which is principally a large charitable fund, provide grants and scholarships, as well as funding for awards and internships to fashion students within the leather industry to help further their career prospects. With the Cordwainers providing support through offering scholarships to the top three Footwear Fashion students in all three years.

Northampton University Fashion Awards

Our very own William Tusting and Martin Pebody from the Leathersellers’ attended Northampton University’s end of year Fashion Awards, for which they judged the Leatherseller’s Designer of the Year Award.  The winner out of the Second Year students was Rebekah Mrazik whose use of intricate laser cutting of leather made an interesting, 3 dimensional material to craft into sensational tops and bags. Also using the laser cutting method and winning out of the Third Year students was Jennifer Hardie, who created a very eye-catching fur and leather jacket, seen below with William and Martin.

William Tusting and Martin Pebody representing the Leathersellers Company  The work of Jennifer Hardie  Laser-cut leather handbag design by Rebekah Mrazik  Gorgeous laser-cut leather garment by Rebekah Mrazik

Graduate Fashion Week

On the 4th June, undergraduate students from the University of Northampton were among those chosen to present their final year collections on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week, which was held at The Old Truman Brewery in London, having completed BA courses in Fashion, Textiles for Fashion and Footwear & Accessories.

Graduate Fashion Week is an annual event providing an unrivalled platform for showcasing the work of the very best up and coming talent in the fashion industry, with fashion and accessories students coming from the most influential universities across the country. A charity organisation founded in 1991 by Jeff Banks CBE, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford, Graduate Fashion Week is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most successful designers of our time. Last year, Graduate Fashion Week celebrated 25 years of being one of the world’s most important sources of new talent for the global design industry.

The work of Fashion and Accessories Student Melissa Francis on the Graduate Fashion Week catwalkOne of these talented  students chosen from Northampton University was BA Footwear & Accessories student Melissa Francis, who was supported and mentored through the creation of her final year collection here in the Tusting workshop by Alistair Tusting. Part of Melissa’s project was to design a range of bags to go with her footwear collection, and luckily the Tusting workshop is just a stone’s throw from Northampton. Every year Tusting supports fashion students from the University, teaching them valuable skills to take with them through their careers with leather products. They are walked through the whole production process from choosing the most suitable materials for their designs, sourcing materials, drawing up patterns and the construction of the design, and how to sew and finish off the bags that they have envisioned, gaining expert knowledge from 5th generation Tusting family members.

Melissa’s hard work and talent has definitely not gone unnoticed, as not only was she chosen to showcase her collection at Graduate Fashion Week which in itself is a great achievement, she was also shortlisted for other awards. The prestigious Drapers Student Footwear Awards, which was held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, and the Cordwainers Footwear Student of the Year Awards at the Clothworkers’ Hall. Following on from these acknowledgements, she has landed herself a dream internship in London for which she has been offered an internship fund from the Leathersellers’ along with the Third Year Scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.

Exciting times ahead for Melissa

Following this success, Melissa said:

‘Alistair Tusting helped me a huge amount with my final major project. Working with Tusting was an incredible experience, to work in that environment to create my products. Lots of advice was given which has improved my bag making skills. I designed, pattern cut and prepped all the leathers, for the employees at Tusting to then sew up the bags. This gave the bags an expensive and professional looking finish which works with the customer my collection was aimed at.

handbag design by Melissa FrancisSince GFW, I have been offered an internship with Skinny Dip London. This is amazing and I am so excited to develop my skills in accessories in London. Because of this internship, the Leathersellers’ have offered me the internship fund to help me during my time in London.

On Friday the 8th of June, I was awarded the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers Third Year Scholarship being £1500. This was based on my FMP work from research to development to final products. Each of us in Third Year competed for this incredible award so to win it is such an achievement and a wonderful honour.

Also, on Friday the 8th of June, Première Vision came to the uni to choose what work they want to exhibit at their event. My work has been chosen for this prestigious event! This is an unbelievable honour and because I won the Third Year Scholarship, I am using some of the money to pay for travel to Paris to see my work there in person. I’m hoping this event will open more doors for me and helps me network more in the footwear and accessory industry.’

We wish Melissa the best of luck in her next endeavour and cannot wait to see how she develops as a designer. We also look forward to the next set of students to come through the Tusting doors to help them on their journey to success.

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