Hulya Anefi only graduated from the University of Sunderland this summer, but she could already be on her way to international success…

The Fashion Design and Promotion graduate has been shortlisted for the prestigious competition – The Real Leather. Stay Different, UK Student Design Competition 2022, in association with ArtsThread.

To showcase the beauty, durability and sustainability of leather through original and innovative designs, the competition called upon talented students and recent graduates worldwide to enter a design in one of three different categories – clothing, footwear and accessories.

Hulya’s entry “Corium Bona”, which means leather goods in Latin, takes inspiration from the traditional garments of her home country Romania, famous for its intricate embroideries and geometric and floral motifs, sometimes displaying hidden symbols.

“The brief was to design a single item made with up of at least 50% cowhide leather, so I came up with the idea of the leather jacket,” Hulya, 23, explained.

“For the sleeves, I looked to the Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column” sculpture, which is a symbol of infinity and longevity, just like leather, which is a material made to last, with endless possibilities of use. I added a built-in jacket belt inspired by chimir – a traditional Romanian leather belt – which symbolises vitality and a link between body and soul.

“I wanted to show the appreciation I have for my heritage and go back to my roots, where I discovered a lot of inspiration. The finished garment represents traditions and longevity while maintaining a delicate balance between people and cultural values.”

The winner will not only be recognised around the world, but they will also receive a trophy, a certificate and a coffee table book which covers the competition and includes their winning entry.

Hulya added: “If I win, it’ll be an acknowledgement of a job well done. Also, currently being on the shortlist, it’s an opportunity to show my design process to a variety of people.”

Earlier this year, Hulya bagged the award for Most Outstanding and Innovative Final Major Project for her “Safety Starts Here” collection, which was displayed as part of the University of Sunderland’s annual Degree Shows – a series exhibitions in the city highlighting the array of artistic talent from final year art and design students.

For this project, Hulya upcycled an old Romanian military parachute to create a six new garments.

On her time studying at Sunderland, Hulya said: “It helped me realise how important is to be independent which gave me a boost of confidence and self-esteem.

“My teachers inspired me to push boundaries and motivated me to step out of my comfort zone. The time spent with them in class allowed me to develop my creativity and find my personal style as a fashion designer.”

Hulya is currently focusing on opening her own fashion studio in Romania.

Naomi Austin, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Design and Promotion at the University of Sunderland, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that Hulya has been shortlisted for this prestigious competition; but actually not surprised!

“Hulya achieved a high First Class Honours this summer for her degree which was so well deserved. She is one of the hardest working girls I have ever met. She came into university early every morning and worked until late at night completing her final graduate collection.

“I have always encouraged our students to enter competitions; especially on ArtsThread, as we have some incredible students, and this ensures their work is seen across a wider platform.

“For Hulya to be recognised in this way just fills me with pride. This is down to the public, so we hope as many people as possible have voted for her as she deserves to win.”

The winners will be announced later this month.

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