Sophia Webster to Deliver Keynote, Receive Honor at the 2024 Cordwainers Footwear Awards

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British footwear designer Sophia Webster will help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Cordwainers Footwear Awards next month.

According to the event organizers, Webster, a graduate of the Cordwainers course at the London College of Fashion, will deliver the keynote speech at the ceremony, slated to take place on June 13 at Saddlers’ Hall in London. Webster will also receive this year’s Sue Saunders Award for Excellence, awarded by nomination to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the footwear trade.

Along with Webster’s appearance, Barbara Hulanicki OBE, the designer and founder of Biba, will produce sketches of the winning designs, which will be auctioned in aid of Cordwainer charities.

“Through the awards, we have seen the emergence of incredible talent, innovation and excellence over the last ten years, not least our first winner, the sneaker designer Helen Kirkham,” Judith Millidge, master of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, said in a statement. “In the last decade we have given away over 100,000 pounds of prize money and promoted the careers of more than 150 students, helping them to achieve their dreams of working in the footwear industry or founding their own businesses.”

As well as the main award, additional categories include the Sneaker/Athleisure Award, which recognizes the innovative design work in this area; and the Sustainability Award, which promotes the incredible work emerging to produce footwear designs that are environmentally sustainable.

Cordwainers Footwear Awards, Barbara Hulanicki, sketch, fashion drawing, shoes
An illustration from Barbara Hulanicki OBE.

This year, 16 student finalists from the London College of Fashion and De Montfort University will compete to win the coveted Cordwainers Footwear Award Trophy.

Monetary prizes this year include 3,000 pounds for first place, 2,000 pounds for second place and 1,500 pounds for both the Sustainable Development Award and Sneaker/Athleisure Award winners.

The main judging panel this year includes Joanne Jorgensen, materials design director of Nike Knit; Katie Greenyer creative director of Pentland Brands; Joachim Sedelmeier, head of shoe design at Paul Smith; and designer Charlotte Olympia Dellal.

Established in 2014, the Cordwainers Footwear Awards not only offer footwear design students significant cash prizes and the chance to earn industry recognition for their work, but finalists are also given the opportunity to gain mentoring experience from some of the best names in the British footwear industry.

“We are really proud of that legacy and will continue to nurture and celebrate the talents of the next generation of designers with our annual awards,” Millidge added. “Britain leads the way in footwear design and the industry is worth over 730 million pounds each year in the UK. The Cordwainers are committed to supporting the talent needed to take it forward.”

Inaugural winner Helen Kirkum added in a statement that without the Cordwainers award, she wouldn’t have got where she is today. “After graduating, I wanted to pursue a Master’s at the Royal College of Art, but I had no way of funding it – until I won the award. The prize money set me on my path,” she said.

After completing her Master’s in 2016, Kirkum was snapped up by Adidas to work at its German headquarters as an assistant designer on its women’s Originals lifestyle range. She now runs her own business in south-east London, Helen Kirkum Studio, which specializes in producing sustainable sneakers from recycled materials.

Cordwainers Footwear Awards, shoe, awards, design, London
The 2023 finalists and judges.

The 2023 winners included first place winner Jihwi Ahn from De Montfort University and second-place winner Daniel Charkow from London College of Fashion. The Sustainable Development Award was received by Annie Purdy, also from London College of Fashion.

Bobby Nangla from De Montfort University became the first person to win the new Sneaker/Athleisure Award at this week’s ceremony. Plus, Georgia Dalloro from London College of Fashion won a first commendation prize, while fellow London College of Fashion student Barney Wardlaw won the second commendation.

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