Michelle de Castro has been named Australian Graduate of the Year by the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) for her innovative and experimental work in textile design.
De Castro, a graduate of RMIT’s renowned Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design) program, took home the major award in the fashion and textiles category at the Australian Graduate of the Year Awards (AGOTYA).
“It was such a wonderful surprise to win. All those hours of hard work have definitely been worth it,” de Castro said.
Judged by design professionals and industry leaders from around Australia, the AGOTYAs identify and recognise outstanding innovation and excellence in design.
The competition is open to final-year students and recent graduates across graphic design, industrial design, interior design, furniture design, textile and fashion design and interior and decoration design.
Portfolios are evaluated on design solutions, transferrable workplace skills and the graduates’ perceived impact on the Australian design industry.
De Castro placed herself in the running for the AGOTYA prize by winning first place in the Victoria/Tasmania Graduate of the Year Awards earlier this year, ahead of runner-up and fellow RMIT graduate Callan Davies.
“I was shocked and so excited to be announced the winner considering the competition from the other designers was really strong,” she said.
AGOYTA is a highly regarded industry award that helps emerging designers like de Castro launch themselves into the competitive world of commercial textile design.
“I’d like to thank the lecturers who’ve guided and pushed me to my full potential throughout the course, and also my family and friends who’ve always encouraged me. It is with all their support I was able to achieve this award.
“Winning the AGOTYA for fashion and textiles will hopefully help me gain recognition and establish myself in the industry, and open up more opportunities for me.”
Responding to three separate briefs, de Castro’s work combines digital techniques with handmade elements, focusing on innovation and future-oriented textiles to create transdisciplinary designs.
DIA judge Susan Lauter said de Castro’s work was “impressive in many ways”, with a clear, effective presentation that met the brief and was well thought out.
“More than just lovely design, her submission was not only ‘artistic’, it focused on the use of today’s technology opportunities for design and manufacture,” Lauter said in her judge’s citation.
“Her designs had visual beauty and style, but they also showed a high level of ‘solutions thinking’ that is needed today to combine design ideas and design fulfilment.”
Claire Beale, Program Manager, Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design), congratulated de Castro on her achievement, noting that awards such as the AGOTYAs “provide recognition of the amazing talent, creativity and transformative approaches to design practice inherent in graduates from our discipline".
“On behalf of the program, our congratulations to Michelle on this fantastic achievement, and my sincere thanks to her dedicated team of lecturers who foster such talent in our midst,” Beale said.
RMIT is ranked number one for design in Australia in the 2016 QS world university rankings and first in Australia in fashion and textiles in the prestigious 2016 Business of Fashion global rankings.
Story: Bradley Dixon