The Interview: how Clarks is finding the sweet spot between innovation and timelessness –

The Interview: how Clarks is finding the sweet spot between innovation and timelessness -

The Interview: how Clarks is finding the sweet spot between innovation and timelessness Clarks was founded over two hundred years ago in 1825 when Cyrus and James Clark made a slipper from sheepskin off-cuts at the family tannery. Over the years, the quintessentially British footwear brand garnered a reputation for providing the British public with comfort-first footwear. Today, Clarks sells nearly 48 million pairs of shoes in 90 countries. In recent years, the footwear retailer has broadened its horizons, branching out to attract “trendsetters and style seekers” with exciting collaborative collections, as well retaining its appeal to its “timeless consumers”. Tara McRae, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Clarks, and Olivier Matteau, Managing Director of Clarks, revealed to why they decided to showcase at Paris Fashion Week this season and how the retailer continues to grow its customer base. Can you tell us about your career and what led you to your current position at Clarks? TM: Over the years I have been very fortunate to work at some amazing global brands. My career naturally progressed into the footwear industry where I spent a decade working up to be SVP of brand marketing at Puma. It was here my appreciation of storytelling and modernizing tradition began. OM: I was fortunate enough to always navigate within iconic lifestyle brands: New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Reebok, Timberland and now Clarks. I joined Clarks as Managing Director for Clarks in Mainland Europe at the beginning of 2022. Clarks is a heritage British brand; how do you modernise while remaining true to core brand values? OM: Clarks has always been at the forefront of innovation. We pioneered or contributed to many of the footwear manufacturing processes that are used around the world today. Our heritage is also in the innovation, we designed and launched the first-ever casual shoe, the Desert Boot, in 1950, which became one of the very first iconic shoes in footwear history (with a few others from our competitors of course). Today we maintain this spirit, launching new designs such as the Torhill, which has had very strong global success. Innovation has been documented by our 200 years of rich history; this is a good place to be! TM:  As a brand, we continue to focus on being true to ourselves and our consumers, which is why we remain so culturally relevant. Who is your target consumer? TM: We have our consumer muses that everyone at the organisation is laser-focused on. Trendsetters, style seekers and timeless consumers. Our brand spans generations thanks to the iconic designs. There is something for everyone. OM:  One of our target consumers is the “Contemporary Style Seeker”, this group of consumers have more interest in fashion and style than the average population. They purchase more, more often and are more aware of trends. Do fashion-forward or classic silhouettes sell better and why do you think this is? OM: Some of our silhouettes, such as the Desert Boot and the Wallabees, are considered iconic and sell very strongly in most of the EMEA markets, as well as in the USA and Japan. The standard classic models, such as a good Chelsea boot or a Penny Loafer, as well as our new creations, such as the Torhill, also perform well. The conclusion? It is not necessarily ‘Fashion’ or ‘Classic’, but more the products that have found the right distribution and the visibility to their consumers. TM: Clarks’ sweet spot is on-trend classic silhouettes with a modern twist. Even when we apply a very fashion-forward design, it always has a classic Clarks design code embedded within it, which is why our shoes are so recognisable. Can you tell us about your new creative direction and how Clarks is pushing innovation and creativity? TM:  What is important to us is that we are always true to ourselves in our direction and have a right to play in the space. We have a handful of amazing collaborators and creatives that we are partnering with to push the boundaries and progress the brand forward such as Martine Rose with Clarks and Ronnie Fieg with Clarks Originals, not to mention numerous brand-to-brand partnerships such as Supreme, Beams Japan and Stussy to name a few. OM:  We are also very big on finding new ways to reach our consumers and work with technology. We always want to be present on the latest digital platforms when relevant. Why did you choose to host an activation during Paris Fashion Week instead of London Fashion Week? TM: We have different programs around different major moments throughout the year. For January, we decided to host a pop-up showroom and brand experience space at Paris Fashion Week. In the space, we showcased our upcoming AW24 collections for Clarks and Clarks Originals, including ‘Coming Up Roses’ with Martine Rose. OM: Both Paris and London Fashion Week are equally important – and you could add Milan to the list. We had to choose as we could not appear in all of them. So, it was decided that Paris would take the lead. It’s a market that is aligned with our positioning, sitting between classic elegance and sportswear savvy. Are there any exciting launches or collaborations in the pipeline that you can tell us about? TM: We have some very exciting collaborations coming out in 2024, which will all be revealed in good time! We’ve just launched the latest version of the Ronnie Fieg X Clarks X Adi Gazelle, which is yet again exploding. OM: Our collaborations are spreading across our different markets, covering both Clarks and our Clarks Originals brand, allowing us to address different consumers and align with a growing appetite towards smarter shoes.