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NTU alumna Linda Leaver challenges Year Two fashion students with an innovative design project

During the 2016 spring term, 28 students from our BA (Hons) Fashion Design course undertook a live project launched by NTU alumna and successful entrepreneur, Linda Leaver.

Linda Leaver with students
Linda and winners (l to r) Amy Vanderwal, Leanne Westbury & Xuan Che

Based on Linda's personal experience of struggling to find suitable clothing after spending time in a wheelchair following a skiing accident, students were set the brief to explore the challenges faced by young, fashion-conscious wheelchair users and those who are physically impaired, and create a range of fashionable, yet practical, garments.

The students undertook thorough research, including a visit to Portland College, an organisation for young adults who have a disability, to help inform their designs. After submitting a market and customer profile report, a sketchbook of research including visual imagery, design development and potential fabrics, ten students were put forward to the final stage of the competition.

Speaking to all the finalists as the design project results were announced at NTU in May, Linda said: "From the initial concept stages through to what I've been presented with by the students here, I've been blown away by the standard and depth of input. The work that has been submitted is way beyond what I expected."

She continued: "This has been a great project to have been part of and I am very happy that it has enabled interaction with groups of young disabled people with whom you wouldn't necessarily engage.

"The concept of 'adaptive clothing' is one that I didn't know much about before. It never occurred to me that it was possible to adapt clothing from able-bodied collections to accommodate disabled needs. I look forward to working with the university on projects over the next two years."

The high standard of work made for a difficult judging process, but after a lengthy final selection session, Amy Vanderwal was awarded first place and £5,000 for her 'The Urban Warrior' project. Amy took inspiration from 'City Stealth' and 'night-time photographers', in order to create six outfits that depicted the idea of a man not allowing his wheelchair to restrain him from being independent and exploring the urban jungle at night.

Additionally, Xuan Che was awarded second place and £3,500 for her 'The Explorers – Spirit of Adventure' collection, whilst Leanne Westbury secured third place, winning £2,500 for her designs.

When asked how it felt to win, Amy told us: "I was completely overwhelmed and in disbelief. I still can't believe my design work has been recognised by industry professionals and has reaped such amazing rewards."

"I have learnt that there is so much more to fashion design than meets the eye. It is a universal language and I have learnt to consider fashion, and particularly wheelchair fashion, with a fresh, innovative, perspective.

"I feel inspired and I am considering taking this forward into the development of a new garment product collection as the basis of my third year work. I was worried about how I was going to fund my third year, but this has been a huge help and will hopefully allow me to create something amazing," said Amy.

Xuan added: "This competition has been really meaningful and valuable and I have learnt how to see things from other people’s perspectives. I had never experienced sitting in a wheelchair for hours, so as part of my research I hired a wheelchair and sat on that to try and make myself closer to wheelchair users.

"For me, this whole experience has been the very best award, however, I shall spend my prize money on my graduate work."

Amanda Briggs-Goode, head of department for Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear thanked Linda for this great opportunity on the behalf of the School of Art & Design, saying: "The project has given the students on BA (Hons) Fashion Design an opportunity to think outside of the conventional fashion consumer by responding to a new design challenge and thinking about inclusive design concepts."

NTU alumna Linda Leaver challenges Year Two fashion students with an innovative design project

Published on 3 August 2016
  • Category: School of Art & Design

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