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In the last days of summer, when sunlight was gentle and a tender breeze filled the air, Clarks decided to analyse the Sagrada Familia closely. In a tiny street of Barcelona, right beside Gaudí’s major master piece, Prad Indrakumar –the resident sportswear designer of the brand– was waiting, with his British accent and easy smile, to present the new model of the brand, Trigenic. Among his personal notebook with drafts and ideas, a video projection, the fall/winter collection and some eternal Clarks’ models, you could feel an atmosphere of relaxed functionality. With almost two centuries of experience in the industry, one can’t doubt that what begun as a family business back in 1825 in Somerset, has already reached world domination thanks to its constant wish to design for real people.

Now, focusing on the ability of reinventing the future by revisiting the archives, Indrakumar understands the importance of foot health and the need of perpetuating the effortless style, mixing formal with casual and adding, once and for all, the sportswear to the collections. He often speaks in plural, showing that being one of the most copied brands in the entire planet only makes this clan stronger and ready to fight in the fashion world, using their own files and knowledge as shields, in order to keep dressing multiple city tribes out there.

How can an icon as the Desert Boot be actualised and rethought in each collection? How can you reach the innovation?

Using the iconic Desert Boot as a point of inspiration, we aim to rethink and re-appropriate the way we design all of our new designs in Clarks Originals. That doesn’t necessarily mean we design a hundred different versions of the Desert Boot, it means we extract the purest elements from the Desert Boot and apply them to new designs. The purest elements for example are: keeping things simple; the construction of the shoe; functionality –only design functional elements of the shoes, don’t over-decorate it; considered pattern cutting and democratic design appeal –designing a shoe for the people by the people. It’s what Clarks have always tried to do.
Innovation is based off these principles. If we innovate outside of these parameters, we start to lose the meaning of our own brand. Every shoe we design at Clarks Originals must have the DNA and the ethos of the brand.

Do you usually do your research in the archives of the brand?

Every season, we always go into our archives and have a look for old shoes to reference or old stories to rethink for the new season. We always try and look at the shoes physically to appreciate their proportion and design features. Visiting the archives at the start of every new season is absolutely important for us. It always reminds us of where we came from and what the brand did before. Only gaining this knowledge and insight can we move the brand forward with new designs whilst harnessing what we did in the past. For us, it’s the best way to use our archive. We use it to reference it consistently instead of looking at shoes from other brands.

How does it feel to have in your own hands the future of the Clarks’ legacy?

Of course, it does feel special for us to be designing something that could be considered an icon for Clarks, but to be honest, we try not to think of this element all the time as it will distract our focus when designing. When we design new shoes, we think about the shoe so deeply, we don’t think about external things like being part of the Clarks legacy or anything like that. It will dilute our thinking when designing. We only think of these things once the project is finished and it starts to get good feedback.

Was the Trigenic Flex on your mind when you started working at Clarks?

I didn’t really have the Trigenic Flex concept in my mind when I started Clarks, but I’ve always had a wish to design a ‘pure’ Clarks shoe. I always wanted to design a shoe, which merged ‘pure’ Clarks DNA with ‘pure’ functionality. I’ve always played with these elements on my previous projects, like Tanner Mid and Tawyer Evo, and so the Trigenic Flex became the ‘purest’ expression of this wish I had.
Designing a ‘future classic’ was not my personal target when designing the Trigenic Flex. My personal target was to look into the archives at a deeper level and make something completely new with it.

“The shoe that mirrors at you.” Could you explain your personal thoughts on footwear?

The term “The shoe that mirrors you” is a statement which reflects the idea behind the Trigenic concept. The purest function behind the Trigenic is movement and form. Movement is very important for a shoe, but you would be surprised how many shoes on the market are not very good at movement. We wanted to change this problem, so we studied how the foot moves naturally and then we designed the leather upper to move with the foot, and then we designed the outsole to move with the foot and take the shifting body weight whilst the feet are moving. The result is a shoe which is cut and tailored specifically to move ergonomically with the foot. The form is important because we wanted to design a shoe which is shaped naturally like the foot. We spent a lot of time redesigning the last-forme to mimick to the foots off-centre shape. We made it wider so your feet can sit comfortably and not feel tight. The insole is made from veg-tanned shoulder leather which is quite hard but it softens up the more you wear it. The natural perspiration generated is absorbed into this veg-tanned shoulder leather insole and it slowly bends into the shape of your foot. The functional idea of the Trigenic concept is to have a shoe, which is shaped to match the shape of the foot, designed to move with your foot and also moulded internally with the veg-leather to match the bottom contours of your feet. It’s not designed to be a sports shoe for running or training in. It’s a pure lifestyle shoe which embraces casual and sport elements together.

How does it feel when someone says to you that you are reinventing the future of the brand by introducing the sportswear on it?

I think it feels good to be introducing the sportswear side into the re-invention of our Clarks brand. After all, Clarks is no stranger to playing with sports elements, as we once had a Clarks Sport collection in 1977. We also started Clarks Cica sport in the early 90’s. I also want the brand to move with the modern times. Many years ago, people wore casual shoes just to socialise in, and then they would only wear sports shoes to use in the gym or go running in. Now, many people wear sport shoes in a casual way and many people choose to wear sports shoes because they think it’s more comfortable than casual shoes. This is what we call lifestyle sports shoes and this is normal for people to wear everyday now. I wanted to merge sports-lifestyle thinking and fuse it with pure Clarks casual designs. It keeps us relevant in an era where more and more people are wearing different styles of shoes for casual-lifestyle purposes.

What has been the most memorable change in terms of design since you became part of the Clarks’ family?

The most memorable shift in the design area was during season SS12, when we were being encouraged to design more creatively. Traditionally, Clarks used to design shoes specifically to sell lots of shoes, but in recent years, the whole brand has been encouraged to look deep into our own archive and design our own shoes which have Clarks DNA to them and with a new perspective. Of course, we design shoes to sell lots of shoes, but now they have more design meaning to them.

In your opinion, what drives people to choose one model over another?

The different cultures of style tribes are what determine people to choose between the Clarks icons. Our icons are available for everyone to wear, but certain types of style tribes choose certain icons. What are style tribes? It’s a term we use to understand the different cultures of the consumers we sell our shoes to. In Clarks Originals, we understand we sell shoes at a cultural level. We understand it’s about the look. It’s about the cultural meaning our icons have to the cultures the consumers choose to associate with. A few very basic examples of this style tribe understanding are: an urban hip-hop guy buying the Wallabee Boot because of the cultural links it has to the hip-hop music scene. You also have another group of style tribes who like indie music like Oasis and Artic Monkeys and they also favor the Wallabees. Then, you have Jamaican’s who have a deep historical respect for Clarks and one of their favourite icons from Clarks is the Desert Trek as well as the Wallabee. The Desert Boot seems to have universal appeal to all sorts of people with different styles. We’ve also noticed more women than ever wearing Wallabees because of the man-tailored trend and this is really exciting for us! Ultimately, we aim to sell our shoes to everyone, but we do understand certain icons have stronger appeal in certain cultures.

Clarks’ collections are informal and yet, at the same time, they can be put together with a formal outfit. Do you try to imagine the lifestyle of your clients when designing a new shoe?

Yes, this is correct. Ultimately in Clarks Originals, we aim to design shoes which first and first foremost have a casual look. We do the icons in classic colours so that they can work with a pair of jeans, chinos as well as a formal outfit. We’ve had emails from people who wore black Clarks Desert Boots to weddings. One of these emails came from a groom who wore Desert Boots with his bride! We get mothers telling us their kids wear black Wallabees with their formal school uniform. Again, we design shoes to appeal to everyone, and so, everybody is entitled to wear Clarks as they please. Casual or formal!

How does a designer deal with the fact that his brand is one of the most copied in the entire planet?

Knowing a lot of our icons are some of the most copied in the entire planet is a compliment as well as a challenge! I don’t see it as a loss of technology or craftsmanship, but we have lost the individuality in our point of view, because many brands have copied our point of view. We cannot reverse this situation, we just have to move on and create fresh new product using our own Clarks history. Trigenic is one example of using our own history to make fresh product, but we have to keep on trying new things.

If you could predict the future of the brand, where do you think it would be in the next 190 years?

Whoa, big question! I have no idea! I guess, thinking of where we are and where the footwear industry is, it could be that we might be custom printing our own shoes to fit our individual feet. We as a brand could perhaps provide the design to the consumer, so the consumer uses their 3D printer to print it off using the data of their own feet.
Or… Imagine if we could clone natural leather? That would mean no animals would be harmed to create real leather! I don’t know. It could be that shoes become living things that evolve to the consumers needs!

Was Barcelona the first choice to celebrate the brand’s anniversary and to present the new projects?

Barcelona is one of three major cities we chose to celebrate our new projects. First the Amsterdam Originals store, then Copenhagen and now Barcelona. Barcelona is the first city to celebrate the brand’s anniversary because we understand Spanish people are very casual and have an easygoing lifestyle with passion in their heart, which suits the easygoing personality of our brand and the way we put passion into our shoes. Again, it’s about understanding how our shoes work with different cultures!


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