Industrial designer Emma Warren was recently announced runner up of the National James Dyson Award. The James Dyson Award celebrates the next generation of design engineers’ innovative solutions to todays problems. Emma’s project investigates the challenge of simplifying the complex New Zealand woolen system along with forming a solution to the dying footwear industry. Her aim was to reduce the steps between the grower and consumer of wool by creating a closed loop manufacturing process. Emma used the family farm in Wairarapa as the foundation of the process and experimentation that informed her collection, Bound by Eight.


The hybrid connection between the wool and footwear industry ultimately lead to a concept that was formed through iterative development with an unforeseen outcome. A majority of the project was spent researching the New Zealand Wool industry and footwear fabrication techniques through interviews and field trips. The importance of the research was where links were formed in the supply chain in order to improve on the existing model.

Wool Shoes

Viewing wool under an electro magnifying glass became the catalyst for how the shoe industry could introduce wool into its model. This insight uncovered how the shoe could be designed free of glue as the upper and sole are connected via the felting process. Felting occurs when wool is agitated allowing the scale structure to open forming interlocking bonds.


Throughout the duration of Bound by Eight, one hundred and seventeen felt shoes were made. Emma taught herself the very complex method of making shoes, working through this process gave insights as to how using wool could simplify the process involved in making shoes.

Wairarapa designer Emma Warren


“My intention was to create a precedence for how footwear can be fabricated in an alternative way and reject the use of the chemical based solvents and synthetic fabrics, which is the most common and definitely the preferred current method. With this intention it gave way to an opportunity to elevate wool to a new typology.”



Emma graduated from university in 2015 and has since been working as an assistant shoemaker for Andrew Macdonald in Sydney Australia. Emma is now taking time to work on her own shoemaking and material research projects. Her designs can be found on her website:


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