UK Design Competition Apparel and Overall Winner 2023: Ana Del Rio

Apparel and Overall Winner: Ana Del Rio

UK Design Competition Apparel and Overall Winner 2023: Ana Del Rio

Ana Del Rio Mullarkey’s British-Spanish heritage provides her with a rich dual-cultural perspective that informs her work. Intent on leading a leather revolution, Ana aims to create contemporary, timeless leather garments that defy fleeting trends and highlight leather’s sustainable attributes. Her commitment to sustainability was solidified during her placement year at 3RD ROCK Clothing, a sustainable activewear brand. Raised in Madrid, Ana cultivated her passion for fashion through art classes and workshops at the Fashion Museum. At fifteen, she relocated to England to pursue Fashion and Textiles A Level, followed by a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design from De Montfort University. Her accolades include the Fashion Innovation Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2023 and the Leathersellers’ Design Award for her leather work.


Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

My Spanish heritage has been hugely influential in this collection as the inspiration for it has been the quintessential Spanish Sunday traditions I enjoyed when growing up in Madrid. The silhouette of this garment is based on the traditional jacket of a “traje de luces” (bullfighter´s suit). The crop, the two pieced sleeves and the seam placement all mirror the jacket as does the placement of the motifs on the garment. The shape of the motif however, is inspired by the traditional tiles found inside typical Spanish bars where people congregate to enjoy an “aperitivo” (aperitif) before a long relaxing family lunch on Sundays. The 3D effect created by manipulating the surface of the leather is inspired by the elevated surface level stonework on the facades of the traditional village buildings where I would visit my grandfather on a Sunday.

What has been your experience in working with leather for this competition?

My experience has been absolutely amazing. My desire has always been to push the boundaries of what can be done to the surface of leather in order for my garments to have a totally original look. Of course, there have been numerous challenges along the way, but these have only inspired me to work harder and learn more. For example, the challenge of achieving a successful leathercraft technique for which it is important to select the right type of leather and then, the challenge of successfully implementing the techniques into a garment’s design. Both of these are paramount to achieving original and beautiful wearable garments. This is all certainly a challenge, however, I have considered it to be a positive one as it has pushed me to innovate further in my desire to create more interesting garments.


What are your thoughts on leather and sustainability, and how you think leather can adapt to a fashion industry increasingly focused on sustainability?

While meat and dairy products continue to be consumed, there will always be animal skins and hides which will go into landfill if not used as a by-product of the farming industry. Being a keen observer of “zero waste” in all aspects of my life, I want to promote leather as a sustainable by-product within a circular economy, however it is vital that we know the provenance of the skins and hides used and assure that both the tanneries and farms have the correct certification and adhere to international laws concerning their use. I also believe that the durability inherent to leather allows for the garments to be worn and loved for lifetimes. In a fashion industry where so much is produced and consumed nowadays, it is vital to create garments which can be passed down through generations and to educate consumers on their choices. We need to think about how we used to consume less, made of better quality materials and look after our clothes for many years. I truly believe that leather is the answer to this. It is a sustainable force to be reckoned with.


What do you think makes leather a great material to design with?
Leather is the perfect material to design with due to its inherent properties. Its moldability and malleability have meant I have been able to experiment with a wide range of techniques such as wet moulding, embossing and quilting along with new cutting and sewing techniques. These techniques have allowed me to think outside the box and create exciting new ideas merging traditional leathercraft with modern technology in order to promote innovation within fashion design. Leather’s durability and longevity have allowed me to think about designing wearable pieces which are timeless and which last for many lifetimes. This has all made the design process an even more enjoyable experience.

Click here to learn more about the UK Design Competition.

Click here to learn more about leather and sustainability.