In Conversation with Dimitri Gabellier, winner of the YKK Accessories Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2019


De Montfort University footwear design graduate Dimitri Gabellier has caught the attention of the fashion world with his innovative sport shoe designs, one of which saw him win the coveted YKK Accessories Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2019.

“I wanted a new way to construct a shoe, something I’d never done before,” explains Dimitri Gabellier.

Inspired by Hojojutsu, the traditional Japanese martial art of restraining a person using cord or rope, Gabellier’s futuristic sports shoe incorporating a self-designed BOA lacing system and springs in the sole to imitate a hydraulic system, impressed the YKK Accessories Award judging panel.

Kei Kagami, YKK Europe Limited Ambassador explained why Gabellier won over e-mail: “This June I saw his work at GFW when judging the YKK Accessory Award. His work was simply outstanding amongst the other students: the creation, the originality and the quality of the finish. Also, I appreciated the intellectual side of the project, such as the intelligence that I could feel from his fantastic portfolio; the attitude to create shoes with his craftsmanship. Dimitri has actually made the shoes by himself!

The other judges, Jo Cope; Chau Har Lee and Eelko Moorer also highly appreciated his work and they all chose it straightway as the winner of the YKK Accessory Award. We didn’t have any problem to decide the winner.  The level of his work was very high in many ways, so we decided to present his work in our Showroom as the main exhibition throughout August.”

Image: courtesy of Dimitri Gabellier

For the third year running, YKK’s London Showroom sponsored the YKK Accessories Award at Graduate Fashion Week to reward and celebrate the hard work and creative vision of students and graduates from across the country who bring a “modern directional approach” to the accessories arena, including millinery, shoes, bags, belts and jewellery.

Gabellier’s bold and visually striking trainer design has seen the young accessories designer receive international recognition, including a six-month internship at Givenchy’s headquarters in Paris after impressing the team during Graduate Fashion Week, and the footwear designer will be gracing the window of YKK’s London Showroom with a special display from August 12 to September 20.

We sat down with this year’s winner, Gabellier about his influences, his process, and his vision for the future of the industry.

Congratulations on being the winner of the YKK Accessories Award 2019! How did you celebrate?

Dimitri Gabellier: “I didn’t really have time during Graduate Fashion Week, it was really busy. But the following weekend I went home to France and I had time to celebrate with my family who I hadn’t seen for a long time, a big celebration of everything.”

Can you talk us through the concept behind your winning design?

“I was inspired by the Japanese martial art Hojojutsu, and the art of using ropes to capture restrain and transport suspects and criminals. What I find really interesting is the way they use the knots to tie people and it’s something I wanted to incorporate in my shoe design. That when you look at it, you don’t understand how it’s built. I wanted a new way to construct a shoe and do something I’d never done before.

“I have always been really interested in Japan and Japanese culture. It feels like a country that always goes further and is ahead of the times compared to the rest of the world; food or denim, for instance, and taking it to the next level artistically.”

Are there any specific Japanese designers you are directly inspired by?

“Yohji Yamamoto is for me the top of the top as a fashion designer. He collaborated with Adidas on a collection called Y-3, which brought together the idea of Japanese culture and trainers, which is perfect for me.”

Let’s go back to the beginning, where did your passion for footwear design begin? What sparked your interest initially?

“Since I was a kid, I was obsessed with creating stuff. What inspires me is the construction of everything! I was building stuff with what I found and today I still find it really interesting to look at a bridge or a car or a laptop, determine how it is built and change it to incorporate it into footwear. I think footwear is where everything crosses. I’ve been collecting trainers for about ten years. I don’t have many pairs compared to other collectors but I think I have about 150 pairs.”

As you may have noticed at Graduate Fashion Week this year, the theme of sustainability is prevalent across the industry right now. Is sustainable fashion important to you? How do you incorporate sustainable fashion in to your designs?  

“It needs to be a theme every year! It’s been important for so many years and how we view and look after the world needs to change. Taking the footwear industry, for example, back in the day it was sustainable because it was locally made, and now everything is going everywhere in the world. We need to find a way to start again, create from scratch, create something more sustainable with the problems that we have today.

“When I design I think about how things are constructed and how we can change to be more sustainable. I think that people are looking more into the history of a product to see if it’s more sustainable. I hope that it can influence the buyer and I hope that it’s something that is permanent. With all the changes brought on by global warming we need to be more adaptable with what we wear. Right now I live in Manchester and every ten minutes it goes from rain to very sunny. I think we need some clothes or footwear that can adapt to both things in the same day.”

What made you want to study in the UK?

“In France we don’t really have a specialised footwear course. There are only three courses [in the UK]; Northampton, London and De Montfort. Each University has their own strengths but when I arrived three years ago De Montfort had just finished creating a new building for all the art and design courses.

“One of the big attractions for me is that if you want to learn how to blow glass or learn about textiles, you just need to go downstairs and talk with everyone in that department. With the new skills and techniques available and accessible to you, this can wholly influence your designs and creative ideas. Learning about new methods was a big pull for me.”

Where do you see yourself in 3 years? What’s the next goal for you as a footwear designer?

“In the next three years I think what I want is more experience. At university we learn how to make shoes, however, what we know is happening in the factories in Asia or anywhere else in the world is limited. I want to travel and see what’s happening and I think after that I want to try to and lead some industry changes to make the footwear industry a bit more human or a bit more sustainable. I think that would be a great achievement. That’s the goal.”


What would be your advice to students/graduates hoping to enter the YKK Accessories Award next year?

“Be passionate, it’s the biggest thing. Working hard is obvious but I think with passion that will come. It doesn’t feel like hard work if you have passion in what you do. Oh, and add a YKK zip!”

Image: courtesy of Dimitri Gabellier


Keep up to date with Dimitri Gabellier’s designs by following him on Instagram @dimitri.gab. To find out more about Graduate Fashion Week, head to and follow @officialgfw.


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