How did you start, and how will you relaunch the Clarks brand?
Clarks has one of the biggest footwear archives in the world. It stores everything the brand has ever done over the course of its existence – almost 200 years. It’s the starting point for everything I do. The biggest part of my job is to identify the design code of Clarks and to ensure that everything we produce reflects that code. However, if we were to be self-critical, I’d say we’ve been too aware of what everyone else in the world is doing, and have been trying to follow that rather than following our own code and design, which has been the driving force of the brand for generations. I don’t see it as re-inventing the brand; I see it as a de-invention, taking the brand back to its authentic design code and making it relevant for the modern day.
How can you make aspects such as authenticity and modernity meet in a 190-year old that has counted mostly a single bestselling model in its whole life?
I don’t think it’s had one bestselling model; it’s a maker of many icons. That’s the thing with Clarks; it depends on what perspective you see the brand. Of course, there’s the Desert Boot and the Wallabee, both incredibly iconic, but there’s also Nature, Natalie, the Lugger, Desert Trek and many more – all global icons that speak the same language. The beauty of Clarks is that it never started in the past, it started in the future. It didn’t start at looking back it started at looking forward. They were always ahead of the curve when it came to innovation; they were running complex cushioning systems before leading sports brands knew it existed. They were the first brand to make foot-shaped shoes, and continue to be experts in craft and foot health. Clarks has always been about innovation; it just hasn’t been very innovative for the last 10-15 years. That’s the spirit we need to get back. Although we must be informed by what we stand for, we also need to make sure everything we do is about tomorrow.
You spoke about relaunching the brand through three main products (Desert Boot, Wallabee, Desert Trek). Will you add any other new “hero” product or will you stick to these three models?
I don’t see the brand being built on just three models. When I reference these iconic models, I talk about ensuring they’re respected in the same way as they are manufactured and produced. The amazing thing about Clarks is that it serves people from infancy right through life. So, what we need to do is make a portfolio of sub-brands that address the needs of different age groups. It will be a multiple product approach.
Will you also focus on an apparel collection? In which way and when?
Great brands don’t limit themselves to single product types. You can see that in Apple, BMW and many other brands. That said, our focus right now is to make sure our proposition of shoes is right for our brand code and the moment we live in. We would never say we wouldn’t. However, our focus right now is on making sure everyone knows we are the greatest casual shoe brand in the world.
Clarks is iconic Britishness to me. Will you also hype that aspect in your relaunch?
Clarks is a British brand and that is very important to us. But I don’t think we will over-leverage on that. Clarks is a massive organisation and recognised all around the world. I love its obsession with globalism, that’s very important to the brand as well. We will always be British, and the heart of the brand will always be in Street, Somerset. But being British doesn’t define us, conquering the market on a global scale does.
Is your relaunch regardless of the gender aspect?
There are some products we make that are very specific to gender - dress categories mostly - but more and more we see a gender agnostic approach to style, and I will always want Clarks to be contemporary. A lot of the shoes we make define what casual shoes are, and I don’t think they need to be gender specific, that isn’t how current consumers think or shop. I want to offer casual and athleisure profiles that address the everyday needs of consumers rather than pushing gender specific styles.
What about the age of Clarks’ consumers?
The age of our consumer is broad. We are launching a portfolio of brands built on franchises of iconic shoes that will address different age groups. Our kids' shoe business is massive, as is our business in comfort for a more mature consumer. Each age group is equally important, and that’s why we will be very specific when we serve them. We need to ensure we make shoes that meet their needs and house them as separate entities aligned with marketing and distribution.
Do you consider Clarks a sportswear brand or a classic brand today? And what path will it take in the future?
I think it was born as an innovative casual shoe brand. We are great makers of shoes that meet the needs of different consumers. We are great pioneers, so our shoes should be contemporary and of the moment. We talk about ourselves internally as the world’s greatest casual shoe brand and, ultimately, that’s the way people should regard us externally.
Are you also studying any specific marketing initiative tied to flagship stores, website, social media and e-commerce as part of the overall brand redesign? Will you open new stores? Will you redesign the existing ones or are you studying any other initiative?
Yes, to all the above. We have a new store concept that has already been designed based on clean lines and modernism with the shoe as the star. We have new websites running on our European sites that will transition to the UK and USA in the very near future. We’re also looking into social commerce in great depth focusing on customer communication and our presence cross-channel. So yes, basically, all the above.
After many significant experiences working for important fashion brands, what aspects will you pour in Clarks from each of the companies/brands you worked for?
When I was first starting out, one of my very early bosses said to me, “make sure you expose yourself to the world’s greatest brands”. And that’s what I always set out to do. So, for me, it was never about working for a fashion brand or a luxury brand, or a sports brand like Nike where I spent a lot of time. The important thing for me was that they were authentic brands and had a singular belief; what they stand for has more value than what they sell. That’s the part I will bring to Clarks.