During the Drapers Footwear awards evening on 30th June, Clarks proudly picked up the Consumers Choice of the Year award. The award with a difference, voted for solely by the consumer.
Keely Stocker, editor at Drapers, said: “These awards are a must attend event for any fashion retailers and brands working in fashion footwear to celebrate the best of the footwear industry. Whether you sell shoes, boots, sandals, trainers, flip-flops, wellies, court shoes, brogues, stilettos, comfort shoes, slippers, ankle boots, shoe polish or insoles, The Drapers Footwear Awards are a chance to celebrate and reward the best of the best. Winners should be so proud of their achievements, standing out in a highly competitive crowd.”
'Clarks is the UK's best Footwear Retailer':
Earlier this year, Clarks was also presented with one of Verdict Retail's 2016 Customer Satisfaction Awards for Best Footwear Retailer of the year. Global research director at Verdict Retail, Maureen Hinton explains: "What these retailers have in common is a powerful determination to get the rules of retail right and deliver for customers.These awards are awarded by the shoppers, not the industry, which makes the recognition far more valuable for all award winners."
The story behind our brightest Spring Summer collection yet!
Designers at Clarks are always on the hunt, in any shape or form, for new ideas and inspiration. When attending a graduate show in 2014, one of the Clarks team spied the work of this particular designer. Introducing Gemma Kay Waggett, a 29 year old Textile Design Graduate and Colour and Material Print Designer from Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Moving to London when she was 18, Gemma attended prestigious London Art College, Central Saint Martins, as well as The Royal College of Art, where she completed both a BA and MA in Textile Design. Alongside this Gemma boasts an impressive list of previous employers, such as Damien Hirst, Giffords Circus and Selvedge Magazine.
Clarks brought Gemma to their HQ in Street, Somerset, where she was handed the task of designing a series of materials for a collection in the SS16 Women’s range. Interestingly she began her process by looking for inspiration around Clarks HQ, specifically seeking out unique, interesting shapes and patterns to help form her own ideas. It was important to Gemma that her work told a story about Clarks, and had a real significance to the brand. To develop the print for the sandal collection, Gemma took the individual pieces of a deconstructed Desert Boot, the Clarks brand’s most famous icon, to create a beautifully striking, colour block graphic, that has an abstract feel when applied to the shoes.
We caught up with Gemma to find out more about her design process and experience of working with Clarks – with just a little bit of time left over to find out some more about her, too!
So, Gemma, after being given the task of designing prints for Clarks, where did you start for inspiration?
I like to think that my eyes are always open. The main door at Clarks’ reception was one of the first things that I noticed when I came to Street, and it stuck with me as I started to think about the design. I’m just a collector of information - images, objects or snippets of material that may work their way into a design at some point.
Do you use any specific techniques to create your designs?
I work both by hand and digitally to explore and develop my designs. For the SS16 collection my designs have been screen printed, digitally printed, bonded, laser etched and laser cut - I care a lot about the careful execution of techniques. As well as refined material choices and colour selections.
Did you have a good experience of the design process while working with Clarks?
It’s been great to work with and learn from the footwear designers as well as the colour and trends team at Clarks. An invaluable insight into the industry and the production of shoes!
How did it make you feel when you saw your shoes in store for the first time?
It was so fun to see them nicely stacked up and merchandised in the windows. It made me feel super proud. I think it’s great that Clarks are working with emerging designers like me, and are investing in developing original patterns and colour palettes that are ownable and exclusive!
How will you personally be styling your shoes this summer?
I mostly dress head to toe in navy and denim. So I’ll be wearing the sandals with painted toenails and denim dresses, Dungarees and jeans all summer long. I think they could also look good with block colour socks, too!
Clarks began in 1825 as a family alliance between two brothers, so we get the power of working in partnership.
Since 2008 Clarks UK has joined with UNICEF, the world’s leading organisation for children and child rights, to help fund educational projects through our shoe donation campaign, ShoeShare. There are ShoeShare drop-off points in more than 500 Clarks stores nationwide plus Clarks HQ, and any unwanted shoes collected are sold on to third parties with minimum wastage – up to 99% are re-used. All the money raised by Clarks UK goes to UNICEF education projects around the world to improve facilities, train teachers, help children go to school, and ensure girls and boys are offered the same opportunities. One example scheme is UNICEF’s School in a Box kit – a lockable box that contains essential supplies and transforms anywhere into an educational space with enough resources to teach 40 children.
Clarks Director of European Merchandising, Philip Jackson, became Clarks UNICEF ambassador two years ago to ‘own’ the relationship and act as advocate for UNICEF’s work in more than 190 countries which aims to help every child reach their full potential. He believes the partnership between Clarks and UNICEF is a ‘natural fit’ due to a shared focus on children’s welfare plus a global outlook and longstanding credibility. “It’s really important that we make a long-term investment – we work together with UNICEF to create a framework for education projects that are genuinely useful and create long-term development and benefits”.
Philip’s ambitious targets for the partnership included a ShoeShare campaign re-brand at the end of 2014, and for Clarks to break through the £1m barrier for fundraising – an amazing objective that has recently been achieved.
Opening up his journal, Philip shares his experiences on a November 2015 trip to The Gambia to see the work of UNICEF on the ground.
Sunday 15 November A funny day, full of apprehension before the trip. Did normal family things – swimming lessons, maths homework – and in the afternoon, played with the kids outside. After tea, I said my goodbyes and set off for Gatwick. After a slow journey I arrived ready for an early night and an early start – the adventure begins!
Monday 16 November After a fitful sleep full of normal hotel noise and anticipation the alarm finally went off at 4.30am. Quick shower then dressed, packed, and a short walk to the terminal.
After check-in there wasn’t much time before we were called to the gate for our flight to The Gambia which turned out to be packed! A mixture of locals returning home, holiday makers and a few randoms like us. One of the crew spotted me writing an email about UNICEF so we had a good discussion about the work and the country. Apparently the crew bring out suitcases of spare clothes for the locals and bags of sweets for the kids.
Banjul International Airport is a very small airport!! But very friendly and all the bags arrived and came out quickly. We were met by two UNICEF Gambia representatives and split into two white UN vans. It was a bit like being on the TV, especially when we had to pass through a Government checkpoint apparently introduced after the failed coup attempt in 2014.
After arriving at the hotel for a welcome drink and an opportunity to chat to the three other business representatives, we were taken over to UN House through tight security, which included surrendering our passports into the office of UN Gambia. We met Sally and Sarah who have fully organised everything for us. We had the opportunity to listen and ask questions which we did and then had a security briefing. The Gambia is classified by the UN as level 2 (UK/US is level 1, Syria is level 6).
Dinner was at Ngala Lodge, a hotel on the sea. It was all going really well until we were invaded by a swarm of white moths, literally thousands of them. We had to give up and leave – apparently it happens once a year about this time.
Tuesday 17 November The start of two days in the field. After a short delay of 30 mins – quickly learning Gambian style is a bit slow – we set off on a 4 hour journey to the country. The road was finished in the past couple of years so it's in really good condition. We stopped after about 2.5 hours to stretch our legs, buy some peanuts and have a look around. It was busy on the main crossroads to Senegal. Very interesting to see. We spoke to a 17 year old who has left school with basically nothing to do and just wants to go to England to try and make a life for himself – a clear reminder of why education and providing people with opportunities is so important.
After the short break, we set off again for the Central River region where the most deprived area was our stopover point for the night. Our first port of call was a community in the village of Mamourfana, to see 4+2 in action. The welcome from the community was amazing and to say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. We all introduced ourselves, and members of the village explained what 4+2 was and how it had helped the community. They then had a little sing song for us which was fantastic.
The 4+2 campaign focuses on promoting key household behaviours to prevent child illness. It is aimed at encouraging communities to practise handwashing with soap and running water, use of insecticide treated nets, exclusive breastfeeding and household water treatment. There are many causes of illness and death among children under 5, however poor personal hygiene, malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and limited practice of exclusive breastfeeding are among the leading causes in The Gambia.
After lunch we went to see a school – it’s amazing to see the kids so happy but they have so little. Even the well for water didn’t work anymore so the kids only had water from a standpipe but it was switched off at 5pm. I found this visit particularly moving – I think partly because I have kids of my own – but also because education really is what is needed, but it’s such a long term investment. UNICEF has been able to provide guidance on who the school needed to speak to to get the well fixed and prevent further damage.
After the school we went to a village that has eradicated open defecation. Gambia wants to be the first African country to eradicate it by 2017 and they are really close to doing so. The villagers were so thrilled to see us and so excited about telling us why it was such an improvement to their lives. This village was really poor, all substance farming and no money at all – but they were so proud of helping themselves.
Following an hour’s drive to the URR (Upper River Region) for a visit to hear about a programme called Toscar – all about women’s rights and female genital mutilation (FGM) – we made it to our final stop by dark. Dinner was in the local town. We ate in what can only be described as a shack, but the couscous was great and there was football – England vs France on the TV – all very surreal!
Wednesday 18 November We were staying in a place called Basse which is right at the top of the country. Our first point of call was Basse hospital. There were some shocking sights – poor, poor children. This year is a bad year as last year’s harvest was poor (maybe food for 50% of the year, the normal average is 75%). Although quite a lot of the acute malnutrition comes from children contracting disease due to them playing in the same place that animals defecate. This gives them diarrhoea which causes them to lose all their nutrients and they don’t recover, hence ending up in hospital. UNICEF’s role is to provide the formula for recovery (+75/+100) and a recovery bar. They also work on the protocols and monitoring to ensure there are staff who work in the hospital that are basically trained. The hospital was the worst thing I have seen in my life – the conditions were horrendous.
After a couple more stops we visited a regional health centre where we spoke to the regional health controller. They have done such a great job with the CHN (Community Health Nurse) fraternity – we saw a CHN at our very first visit. UNICEF supports the CHN and especially the policy and practices they follow. At the health centre we also saw the immunisation store – immunisation is a big success story in Gambia, as the rates for immunisations are really high and it is seen as a positive thing to do. One problem they have encountered is that birth registration is low, so when people come for immunisation there is no record of birth. To overcome this they are simply putting together the two registration processes into one – sounds simple, but it’s a mammoth exercise to achieve it.
I think by the time our visits had finished, we were all really, really tired and were looking forward to getting back for a warm shower. We had a four hour journey to get back, which was pleasant – it’s amazing how quickly you become accustomed to your surroundings. It seemed so normal to see cows, goats and sheep wandering around the place and people walking on the side of the road.
Thursday 19 November After breakfast we headed over the road to the UN house. Back through the UN security and in to meet the UNICEF team. We had about an hour’s debrief, asking questions, sharing learnings and experiences.
Then we were driven to a hotel about 30 minutes away where we were to have a brunch with the upstream partners of UNICEF – Government ministers and other NGOs. There were seven tables and we were all asked to chair a table and lead the discussion on the chosen topic. For me, it was Education. Some very interesting discussions ranged from meeting the NGO that created the mothers’ clubs and worked with UNICEF to implement them, to a discussion with the head of statistics for the Gambia.
As I write this I’m sitting in row 7D on the flight home, next to a retired vet from Yorkshire who has spent two weeks volunteering at a donkey sanctuary. The time has flown by and it’s been an amazing experience, one that has definitely made me want to drive UNICEF even harder than before. I have met some people who will stay with me forever, and hopefully some people who will remain friends.
Help Clarks and UNICEF to reach even more children by donating your old or unwanted shoes at your nearest Clarks store.
Learn more about UNICEF at www.unicef.org.uk
Top Image © UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi - Children attend a UNICEF supported school in Malawi (School in a Box)
All Other Images © Clarks/Phillip Jackson 2016
Clarks has always nurtured talent and passion for new design, so it’s no surprise when a fresh creative face passes through our door. Casper Notenboom, a Product Design student from the Netherlands recently stopped by for a one-off internship, arranged by his visiting lecturer and former Senior Designer for Clarks Originals, Marijke Bruggink.
Keen to promote industry links with design students and challenge perceptions of Clarks as a brand, Marijke set Casper a brief, then introduced him to the people and resources within Clarks to explore his ideas. “Casper has taken a very experimental route and gets the freedom to experiment here. I trust him with that,” she says. She believes such schemes can provide valuable insight for students from design schools all over the world.
We caught up with Casper for a quick Q&A on his projects and progress so far…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a 4th year Product Design student studying at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, and I’ll graduate in June 2016. At 31 I’m an older student as I actually worked for nine years. When I was 15 I started work in the metal industry and was specialising in welding in the industrial sector – everything you can imagine that’s made from steel, I did! And when I was 24 I thought, “OK, now I have to go to school.” So, first I did industrial design and I was actually missing the creative part. Though I think the work I did in industrial design gave me confidence.
Were you always creative, even as a child?
Yeah, I was always building things – and I was also always outside looking at things. My mother says for example, in the park all the children wanted to go on the see-saw, but I was always looking at how these things work! She was always laughing about it…
So are there any particular products you’re interested in designing?
At art school you can choose to specialise, for example in accessories or furniture – indoor and outdoor pieces. But I’m doing a specialisation in materials. Because I like to believe I can design everything – not only shoes – I think materials is the best specialisation for me. I’m interested in the design industry as a whole and how products are being produced, so I think it’s important to understand materials in order to be able to design anything. I previously worked with Marijke on an assignment for Clarks where we had to design a shoe and a slipper, and she set up this internship for me because she saw the line between my work and Clarks.
What was your knowledge or perceptions of Clarks before?
I knew the classics like the Desert Boot, you know. And my perception was that the company was not that big. But the first thing I found when I came here was, “Wow, it’s so big!” And there’s a lot of knowledge here. I really like that Clarks has its own database of all its shoes – it’s really created a strong foundation, which comes from its long history I think. And it’s nice to see that it’s changing with time, you know. Some old companies stay with their old thoughts, but I think Clarks is trying to move with the times. And I think they have to, because the shoe business is hard if you don’t change.
Can you tell us about any ideas or people you’ve worked with so far?
First I had a look around, so I’ve seen how they make the lasts, plus the 3D printing and all the machinery. In the last-making department I found it very interesting that though the shoes are made by machines the lasts are still handfinished from the old shapes. So, I’ve been thinking about different materials and different ways to make a shoe. I thought maybe I need to look at different ways to make a last, to get ideas? So I made a different style of last. I’ve looked at the vacuum former and created a 3D print and then I’ve made changes to the last. I’ve also done a bit of construction because you have to see how things combine together.
It’s been great to work with Oliver Saunders, a Design Engineer working in the Children’s Product team who creates digital 3D models and 3D prints.* Also Graham Muttram, the Last Modellist, has helped me, and Paul Rees the shoemaker and Workshop Manager will ask, “How’s it going?” and I’ll show him my ideas and he’ll give me feedback.
(*Olly concurs: “Working with Casper is inspiring and fun. Coming from a welding and industrial design background he approaches shoe making in a different way to us, which is refreshing and sparks new ideas!”)
How has all this helped develop your thinking?
I find something interesting and my interest grows – for example in the lasts – it’s something that grows when you’re in a place like this. Next week it could be something else! It’s often the small things you learn that surprise you. It’s really experimental. But what I’ve also learned is the amount of effort it costs to get one shoe into a store. Clarks has let me see how much work it is to get the high quality – it’s really crazy! I always kind of thought, “I have a design,” and “OK, it’s a shoe, I’m gonna make this,” but now I’ve seen how much effort and how many people are working to get it into the store. It’s really surprising. It’s also made me start thinking more about leather and using other materials to make a shoe. I did a project for Clarks before and I went to a rubber factory – it was the biggest in Europe – and I made a shoe without glue using a vacuum former, so it was a real experiment. It was nice to make a shoe without leather but which had the same qualities. And Clarks is open for it, and open to ideas. What I like about Clarks is that you can get a lot of knowledge from its people, and when you’re inside the company they always want to help you.
I might go on to do some more shoe designs when I graduate – I have ideas for a series of products, so there might be a shoe in it!
You also did an internship in China – can you tell us about that?
I chose the internship in China because I wanted to experience the small studio, to see the difference between a small one and a big one like Clarks. It was at the Studio Henny van Nistelrooy in Beijing, and I was there for two months. The designer I worked with created interiors and furniture, but also within an exhibition space. He’d build it all up then see how people reacted when they came into a room, how they responded to the space. The whole experience was amazing, I’m definitely going to go back. I think it’s because it’s not that long in China that they’ve had the chance and money to express themselves, you can feel it – it’s like an energy. There are lots of opportunities. When you look at Chinese art, people are very curious about everything. I think it’s the time for them to get more open – a lot of students would work and cover what they are working on – but I think that’s the old way. You have to share your things. That’s what I think.
What are your plans for the future once you graduate?
I’m definitely going to start my own business. Myself and a classmate, Lennart Bras, we have the same mind and way of thinking, so we’re going to do it together. We’re also going to graduate together, like a team. I really like working collaboratively, I think it’s the best way. Sharing ideas – it’s the new thing.
Specifically we want to work together with industries. For example we have some ideas for the packaging industry. They are developing such high quality materials, vacuum formed packaging – like blister packs. These can be so strong and hard to open, qualities you could apply to using them for furniture or maybe a small house for developing countries. So we are thinking about working together with some big companies.
I’d like to go to Beijing Design Week, or the Dutch Design Week or Italy. And I see myself maybe in the future, living and working in China…
What I like about Clarks is that you can get a lot of knowledge from its people, and when you’re inside the company they always want to help you. I might go on to do some more shoe designs when I graduate – I have ideas for a series of products, so there might be a shoe in it!