“Keep your eyes on the prize and don't allow others to get in your way, and you’ll make it. Good luck!”
Charles Mein, the winner of the Clarks Footwear Award, is a young designer with an unusual back story. From redoing first year to learning how to see the world through a creatives eyes, Mein's design philosophy is one of constant learning, growing and expanding underpinned by hard work and focus.
A recent graduate from University Arts Bournemouth, Charles has high hopes for the future. From realising his shoe design into a prototype, that will be on display at our Houses of Parliament event in November, to envisioning a future in the industry that feeds his creativity, Charles has the world at this feet.
Firstly, a huge congratulations on winning at Graduate Fashion Week 2018! What award did you win?
Thank you! I won the Clarks Footwear Award.
How did it feel when your name was read out?
Crazy. I was up for 3 other awards and I had already just missed out on 2, so my confidence was a bit knocked. When Rosie started reading out the Clarks Footwear Award and talking about how the winner applied their own design aesthetic and ideas in an original way, I knew that had to be me. My name was read out and from there I don't remember anything until I was backstage with the award in my hand. Most incredible feeling ever, pure ecstasy.
Which university did you attend, and how do you think they prepared you for graduation?
I attended the Arts University Bournemouth. The tutors are amazing, so supportive, personable and professional. They push us to work to our best level and don't stop until the show is over.-something that I am eternally grateful for. Without the support and constant push from the staff at AUB, there's no way I would have made it to where I am today.
Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work.
I draw inspiration from everything. I see the entire world around me in a creative way with a curious mind and I love to apply my design and creative philosophy to everything, thus my concept was about modular design, with user customisation at the core of it all. I applied the same ideology to my final major project and the Clarks Footwear Award. I’d love to tell you more details about my award design work but as part of the award is a placement with Clarks where I’ll be developing my design into a realised shoe prototype, you’ll just have to wait and see! It’s being unveiled at the GFW event held at the Houses of Parliament in November!
What one thing would you recommend our readers do whilst at the event?
Focus. Keep your mind in the zone and constantly be on the eye out for industry professionals and VIP’s but keep an open mind and talk to everyone as if they’re a potential employer, as you never know who you might be talking too. If you’re lucky enough like I was to be allowed to stay on the stand by my work and network, then make sure you’re there from the second the venue opens to the second it shuts. If you can't be on the stand, still make sure you’re there, selling yourself and your work to the various professional. Also make sure you note down who you've been talking too and where they're from, get as many business cards as you can and give out as many of yours as you can. You never know what you might get back.
What do you plan to pursue now, and where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
Well as I’m lucky enough to of won a placement with Clarks through the award as a footwear designer, I’m hoping this is the start of my footwear design career, shoes have always been an obsession for me and designing them for my job is a dream come true. So, in 5 years with any luck I’ll be designing shoes, who for? Who knows, but for sure I’ll be staying true to my unique design philosophy and applying that in any way I can.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in first year, what would it be?
I was a terrible first year student, I actually had to redo first year! So, if I could go back I’d tell myself to focus more and come in to uni. That's the key to doing well in a fashion degree, coming in to uni and putting the hours in. That being said I don't regret anything as in that year I grew so much as an adult and learnt so much about how to be independent and interact with my peers, so I think learning to balance the two is key. Sure, it's your first year so go out and party as much as you want, but don't allow that to take priority over going in to uni and learning the key skills you need as fledgling first year fashion designer, but most importantly, enjoy it!
I loved every second of my degree and being in uni, even when it gets hard and stressful, just remind yourself that you're on this incredible and unique journey and not only are you learning a skill and a trade that you can use for the rest of your life, but if you work hard enough GFW will be a crazy, rewarding experience, and with any luck you’ll get yourself a job or an award out of it. Stay focused. Keep your eyes on the prize and don't allow others to get in your way, and you’ll make it. Good luck!