The date for the 2017 Final of the Sophie Hallette University Design Challenge was set – 8th June.  The Course Tutors were cracking the whip. The 12 finalists were working feverishly on their collections and making plans for a catwalk show. The venue was booked.  A superlative Judging Panel were in place … and then the UK Government decided to choose the same date for the General Election and all planning ground to a halt!  Exceptional circumstances make for exceptional choices, so this year, for the first time we had to change the method of judging our eponymous lace competition, as it was impossible to get everyone in one place … and still get home in time to vote.

Our 12 finalists, from top fashion universities around the UK, rose to the challenge!   They were asked to make a presentation of their work showcasing exactly how they had used Sophie Hallette lace.  Had they embellished it?  Shredded it?  Dyed it?  Bonded it with other materials?

We were looking for work which pushed the creative boundaries, too.  Was it ahead of the curve, or just following?  Was there a true passion for lace in fashion..or had it all been seen before?

The presentations arrived on time and were duly sent to our illustrious panel of judges who were blown away by the sheer inventiveness and creativity which young fashion students are prone to.  Boundaries were well and truly pushed in all categories…so much so that when it came to deciding the Winner, the scores were tied.  Thus, in this extraordinary year of change we have decided to split the prize between two students.

Emily Hancock from Manchester Metropolitan University and Max Wells-Gray of Edinburgh University will share the prize, and the title of Winner of the 2017 Sophie Hallette University Design Challenge.

Sophie Hallette University Design Challenge 2017 Emily Hancock ManchesterSophie Hallette University Design Challenge 2017 Emily Hancock ManchesterSophie Hallette University Design Challenge 2017 Emily Hancock Manchester

Emily created a womenswear collection with dyed, embroidered, embellished, pleated and bonded lace to create a gorgeous collection of striped and checked outfits which were outstandingly creative, yet commercially viable.   “This collection clearly demonstrates design ability and strong commercial potential, constructed to a high level of finish, designed and ready to be placed on sale in a retail store.” Says Fabio Piras, Course Director of MA Fashion at Central St Martins.

Veronica Potocko from Stella McCartney agrees.  “This is the future of lace: wearable, simple, delicate, lovely to the touch but with modernity. Wearable day and night.”


Sophie Hallette University Design Challenge 2017 Max Wells Gray Edinburgh

Max produced a striking and impactful menswear collection which was loved by all the judges.  His designs were tradition-meets-sportswear-by-way-of-biker-couture, and the lace was all the better for his gold leaf gilding and wood embellishment, creating dramatic, yet very wearable silhouettes.

Oriole Cullen from the Victoria and Albert Museum summed it up… “The gilding was a very effective and successful method of embellishment and the use of wood was audacious but impressive.”

I really loved this collection, “ says Elizabeth Paton, European Styles Correspondent for the New York Times. “Terrific silhouettes, use of colour and patterns.”


So … our thanks go to the colleges who entered the Challenge this year, and to all our finalists who continued to surprise us with their brilliance … it was a close contest … but the well-deserved winners are Emily and Max … congratulations to them both.


macaron SHUDC

 Photo courtesy of: Max Wells Gray and Emily Hancock

Credits:  Polly Davis