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Clarks Q&A with Paul Hollingsworth - Best children's footwear brand 2014 - HIGHLY COMMENDED

We meet the designer behind the 2014 Junior Design Award-winning entry

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What is your name and job title?

Hi, I’m Paul Hollingsworth and I’m the Range Manager for the Clarks Boys Everyday and Sports Collections

What style shoes did you love to wear as a child?

When I was kid, growing up I was a massive fan of American Basketball. I remember saving up for what seem like an eternity and getting my first pair of Nike Air Jordans (I can’t remember ever taking them off!). I also had a couple of pairs of Dr. Martens boots, which I always used to wear into the ground.

What’s so great about fashionable children’s footwear?

With the growing popularity of online social media platforms children are becoming more and more adventurous & creative when it comes to what they wear on their feet – it’s this element that makes my job so great to do.  We take inspiration from our Adults Collection and then add all these amazing colours and materials that we know kids will love!

What are the highlights of your autumn winter 2014 collection?

For this season we’ve got a fantastic collection of Boots that take inspiration from our Adults collection. The sporty inspired unit has a really cool Saw Tooth tread and the whole thing has been made in TR which means it lightweight and flexible. On top of that we’ve designed three different upper profiles; the first is low mid cut, two eyelet profile that takes its inspiration from one of our most iconic and famous styles – the Desert Boot.  The second is a higher cut chukka boot whilst the third is a great Gore-Tex®, fully waterproofed hiker inspired silhouette made from soft leather and suede. The style also has a great contrast coloured leather runner to give it a real rugged fashion look.

In Sports we’ve got an amazing new innovation called Megalights. The whole mid sole has been designed to Flash, Pulse or Light up with every step, and because the lights are powered by a rechargeable battery it means that they’ll never run out of juice. With something as cool as this we needed an upper that looked great too, so we’ve designed a Basketball inspired High Top profile that comes in Silver Glitter & Neon Pink and Navy & Neon Green.

How important is it to keep up with changing fashion trends?

Keeping up with the latest Fashion Trends is really important for us, but it’s also about getting the right balance. There are so many different trends that come out every season so we always take a long time picking ones that we know are going to be relevant for our target consumer.

Why is it important to invest in children’s footwear?  

As a parent you probably find that you’ll visit a Children’s shoe shop more times in a year than you would for yourself. It’s really important for us, as a Brand, that we’re offering freshness within our ranges so we have to constantly invest in new platforms and styles. If you don’t invest then you’ll find that your collections will start to look very similar and consumers will start to look elsewhere for their shoes.

Where do you find design inspiration? 

Inspiration for our collections can come from anywhere. Clarks have been going since 1825 and that means we’ve got an amazing archive that’s just full of samples and images of all the different styles that we’ve done over the years. Whenever we’re planning our ranges for the forthcoming season we always love to go over to the Archive and spend some time going through the old catalogues looking for inspiration, it might be something as simple as a toe shape or stitch design that catches our eye or it could be the whole shoe – our Retro Sneaker styles for this season (Super Jog, Super Run, Super Leap & Super Step) takes inspiration from a group we did 25years ago called SuperKids.

We’ll also look at what’s happening on the Catwalks during the Fashion Weeks that happen throughout the season – this is a great way to see what the upcoming trends are.

What are the top three rules for buying children’s shoes - except for making sure they look good!

1) Look at the materials that are being used.

Because of the rising costs of raw materials a lot of brands are having to switch from Leather uppers to synthetic, so always look at what you’re paying for.

2) Look for technologies when buying.

As well as a good looking shoe it should also be comfortable to wear, so look for technologies that give cushioning and comfort like Air Spring FX and Max Spring FX. These are perfect for those kids that spend their whole day running around and playing!

3) Don’t forget about weight.

Children’s shoes may not seem that heavy when you’re holding them in your hand but don’t forget that they’re likely to be worn for most of the day so look for shoes that are design to be lightweight whilst still being durable. A lot of brands are starting to look at materials like EVA and Blown Rubber to try and reduce the weight of their shoes.

Why did you enter the Junior Design Awards?

We (Clarks) love the website and the content - it fits perfectly with our audience. The Junior editorial team know exactly what their readers are looking for, and it shows in the quality of their features and content. They also really understand our brand and look for ways in which we can help complement what they are producing.  We are also always thrilled with the pieces that include Clarks – it’s always so great to see!

What kind of children’s footwear innovations do you think we have to look forward to? (Trends, fabrics, measuring devices, ways to buy…?)

We’ve just launched our new iPad measuring gauge into all of our UK stores, so we really want utilise this technology over the next few years to help make the consumer experience even more engaging.

When it comes to materials you have to look at what a lot of the big sports brands are doing – A lot of materials and finishes that a few years ago you’d only find on a sports shoe are starting to find their way into non-performance fashion products.


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