International Student Design Competition Crowns Winner

–       Competition asks young designers to think natural to break the fast fashion cycle

–       2,000 students from 160 institutions and 40 counties compete for title   

–       Judging panel spans from metaverse to high fashion including Hugo Boss MD, Mulberry Head of Sustainability and Institute of Digital Fashion Co-Founders

The winner of Real Leather. Stay Different. International Student Design Competition 2022, in association with ArtsThread, was announced last night [2 November 2022] at a Live Final. Gal Benjamin, a Fashion Design graduate of Shenkar College of Design, Engineering and Art in Ramat Gan, Israel, was crowned International Winner. Their design, entitled ‘’Alexithymia‘’, was inspired by the condition of that name which describes the inability of men to recognise and express emotion as a result of repressive upbringings caused by the constraints of the stereotype of masculinity.

The award was presented by Chairman of the Judges Kerry Brozyna, Vice President of Wolverine Worldwide at an awards party attended by leading fashion industry experts and influencers. The judging panel included Christopher Koerber, Managing Director, HUGO BOSS, Rosie Wollacott Phillips, Head of Sustainability, Mulberry, Leanne Elliott Young and Cattytay, Co-Founders, Institute of Digital Fashion and Mike Adler, Style & Fashion Director.

Commenting on their win, Gal said:

“I’m amazingly proud to win this award. My piece is made from offcuts of leather from other designs of mine, so I’m pleased to be able to use the leftovers. The whole process really educated me as to how sustainable leather is. My design was inspired by my research into men’s behaviour and the violence and destruction caused by toxic masculinity which translates into Normative Male Alexithymia.  It’s intended to challenge the usually aggressive tailoring of menswear.”

The competition attracted almost 2000 entries from 130 academic institutions representing 40 countries. It encourages the use of leather to deliver a more sustainable future and prompts the next generation of designers to think ‘slow fashion’. Alongside the International Winner the three fellow finalists were Anna Melegh (London College of Fashion, UAL, UK), Gianluca Ambrosini (SCAD Savannah, USA) and Lior Weinberg, (Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, Israel).

Shortlisted as winners in their own right, they were respectively International Category Winners in Footwear, Accessories and the People’s Choice nomination. Their entries embraced everyday items as inspiration, from binbag inspired shoes to a pouch shopping bag and elaborate design pieces with intricate pattern-cut trousers and statement woven jacket designs.

The competition encourages future talent to work with natural, sustainable, responsibly produced leather in categories of apparel, footwear or accessories, using at least 50% leather. The judges wanted to see pieces that will not only last but will be loved for a lifetime.

Every year, some 120 million hides are thrown away, ending up in landfill or being incinerated, releasing CO2 and other harmful emissions. The leather industry diverts some two million tonnes of global waste from landfill every year, converting these unwanted materials into beautiful and long-lasting accessories, clothing and footwear.

Christopher Koerber, Managing Director, Hugo Boss added on behalf of the judges:

“The next generation of young designers has a critical role to play. Not only in thrilling with new designs and styles but putting the industry on a footing where sustainability, the use of natural materials, the reduction of waste and a more considered approach to the cycle of fashion, comes to the fore.  Gal Benjamin, with Alexithymia, really delivers on this with a piece that radically challenges the notion of toxic masculinity.”

Supported by the Leather & Hide Council of America, Cynthia Guven, Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs, Foreign Agricultural Service, on behalf of the US Embassy added:

“Real Leather. Stay Different. is vital in promoting leather to a broad audience and works to ensure best practice and a sustainable future across the global industry.  It’s also a wonderful platform for new creative talent as it raises awareness about sustainability in fashion, whether using leather or other natural materials.

“For the competition to receive so many entries, from so many countries, clearly shows the need and impact. Congratulations to all who participated in the competition this year and to our winner Gal. We look forward to following their careers as they become tomorrow’s leading designers.”

Kerry Brozyna, Chair of the Judges, ended the event by calling on attendees to look again at the materials and processes they use, and to reconsider the use of synthetics, adding:

The onus is on us to provide industry and consumers alike with the information to make informed choices to the benefit the planet. In the case of leather, a by-product of the meat and dairy industries, that choice is simple. If we need to use marginal lands to produce the food our growing global populate needs, then we need to be responsible in how we use the waste from that process. Natural, durable and biodegradable materials, repurposed for use, must be our priority before we look to the fossil fuel industry for cheap, short-term solutions.

Finalists’ pieces were made by leather specialists AForce to create a capsule collection, displayed at the Live Finale. AForce is recognised for its innovation in leather design and application and commitment to zero-waste.

Digital fashion partners, the Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF) will take Gal Benjamin’s winning apparel design ‘into the metaverse’ by creating a 3D asset, bringing the competition to life through an innovative AR try-on that can be experienced globally.