Megan Davies, graduate of University of South Wales and winner of the Clarks Footwear Award at GFW17, garnered interest whilst showcasing her historically inspired designs to the 30,000 guests that head through Graduate Fashion Week each year.
Having recently shown her innovative and winning shoe designs to an audience of industry professionals at the GFW X Houses of Parliament event, we're excited to see where the talented young designer will take her career. To hear how her experiences at Clarks are shaping her practise, the inspiration behind the creation of the shoe and why Megan champions sustainability, read the full interview below.
Hi Megan! We can't wait to hear about your experiences since graduation. Firstly, how have you been since winning the Clarks footwear award at GFW17?
I have been great since winning the award thank you; it has been a bit of a whirlwind!
How was the experience of winning the award, and going on stage?
Winning the award was totally unexpected and I am really grateful for the opportunity with Clarks. I was so shocked when my name was read out as the winner and getting up on stage was nerve wracking but an amazing feeling.
As a graduate of South Wales University, how has your university experience prepared you for a position such as the internship with Clarks?
I entered the competition because I wanted to do something different, my background is not in footwear as my course at University of South Wales was primarily apparel based but we were always encouraged to experiment and create a whole look and brand. I researched a lot into functionality for my graduate collection and the Clarks project was very much an extension of this. There are a lot of changes happening in University of South Wales and I have been able to work with lots of different lecturers with different experiences which has benefitted me and inspired me in different ways throughout my time there. I also took a sandwich year placement in Peacocks design team, which really opened my eyes to the commercial side of fashion and designing with a specific customer in mind. I think this has prepared me well for the placement at Clarks.
What was the inspiration behind the winning project?
My initial inspiration for my Clark’s project was an electrically heated in-sock worn by pilots in World War 2. I thought that this was a very forward thinking concept that sparked my imagination to think about how this idea could be developed and used in a more modern way for a commercial consumer. I also wanted to bring in sustainability in some way, as this is also important to me. I thought about how tyres are a huge waste product and how this could be incorporated into the sole design.
Shoe design can often be overlooked, yet is integral to the fashion industry. What attracts you to shoe design specifically?
I like the idea of shoe design as I think it merges functionality and fashion together. There is a lot of science and technicality behind footwear that needs to be considered but then you can also experiment and create a look that brings an outfit together. The shoes you wear can also very much affect how you feel and how you walk; everyone knows the importance of being comfortable in shoes as well as them being aesthetically pleasing.
As a noted champion of sustainable design, how have you found implementing your personal ideas about production with design and retail value?
Sustainability is very important to me and in my eyes as designers we need to always question how can this be more sustainable? I think that every business needs to be looking into the future and thinking more about waste management throughout production as well as within designs. I do think it is harder to do this within a commercial design set up but it is still possible if you are creative enough. It is nice to see a global company like Clarks really starting to think in this way and from working with the innovations team in Clarks I can see that sustainability is a concept that is really important.
Part of the prize was a bursary, intended to help you further your talent. What do you intend to use the bursary for?
I am thrilled that Clarks has extended my internship for a further 12 months which at the moment means that I am gaining new skills and furthering my creativity in design so at present the money is in a savings account ready to use for my continuous professional development when an appropriate opportunity arises.
Internships are often seen as an important way for emerging designers and creatives to gain real industry experience alongside learning. You begun your placement with Clark's early this month. What have you learnt and enjoyed so far?
I think internships are a must to learn real industry skills and gain experience but also to find out about jobs that you may not have known existed. Since beginning my internship with Clarks I have been lucky enough to work with many departments involved in the shoe making process, from conception to production. It has been great to meet so many different people and have worked with so many departments. It has definitely opened my eyes to how much goes into making a shoe. I have really enjoyed being so hands on from making a last for my design to working with the 3D prototype team to create a 3D model. It has been awesome being a part of the whole process.
If you were asked to give advice to students that will be showing at GFW18, what would you say?
I would say embrace the experience. It is hard work and you will have knock backs but you have to be persistent and always follow your instincts. There can be so many conflicting opinions in this industry and it is important to take on advice and criticism but ultimately if you stay true to yourself you will succeed and be proud of your achievements. The best feeling is creating something you are proud of. At the event see everything you have time to see, listen and learn. Be inspired by the creativity that will be all around you and be confident and not intimidated. Graduate Fashion Week is such a great opportunity to showcase your work to potential employers so make the most of it!