[dropcap]I[/dropcap]conic British footwear brand Dr Martens has held strong links with rebellious youth culture since the 60s. For their most recent project, they turned to Central Saint Martins to enlist the creative work of recent graduates for their Autumn/Winter 2014 launch. It started during the summer. The creative team from Dr Martens came to the annual CSM degree show, where they explored the variety of courses and backgrounds, and eventually chose six designers based on the work they had on display. Each designer was assigned a room, and tasked with the challenge of designing a show space for a selection of Dr Martens shoes. The event, lasting two days, was to show the new AW14 collection to international shoe retailers.
The designers were all supervised by Jonathan Baker, a lecturer of Visual Merchandising at LCF, keeping in mind that the deadline for their designs was mid-September. The designers praised Jonathan for “pointing the right way ahead.” Jonathan’s input was crucial as Dr Martens would only continue to develop the designers’ ideas if what they came up with was to their liking. This is the second year that Dr Martens have had the product launch at CSM, and have actively got involved with the graduates to help them with the design. We spoke to the designers who took part in this exciting project, and here’s what they had to say.
Fine artist and painter Oscar Lett hails from Paris. During his BA in Fine Arts at Central St. Martins, he took a year out and did an exchange program in Japan. Although hesitant to return to London, Letts came back anyway, which ultimately benefitted his participation in the project, as Dr Martens saw his work at the final degree show and loved it.
“My display had to be in keeping with their premium collection,Crafted. Since ‘Made in England’ is the strongest selling point of Dr Martens, I thought about going back to their roots, and went to the Cobbs Lane factory in Wollaston (Northamptonshire) where the shoes are made. I took hundreds of pictures to then use them in a collage for a painting on the main wall of the Theatre Foyer, which is the room I was allocated.
The trickiest time came when I had to actually make the display. Most of the graduates create a design and Dr Martens take care of the realisation. Since mine was a painting, I was the only one who could take care of it. The size of my painting was 5m x 2.5m, which meant it would be complicated to find a studio space. We thought about reducing its size, but I came up with another idea: We put the canvas and I in the street of CSM, and I simply painted there.
To be able to come back to CSM, not as an art student, but as a painter with a commission, was probably the most rewarding feeling of all.”
Leaving Cambridge after sixth form, Anne Bellamy went straight into a BA in Architecture, Space and Objects at Central St. Martins. She graduated this summer with a distinction.
Bellamy says, “I was the first architecture student they ever considered. Graphics and fine art graduates maybe have a more visible style they can bring to the design, so it was a nice challenge to bring a more architectural background to this.
Being given the words ‘bridges and super spans’ as my starting point, I wanted to create something really simple that would echo the construction of bridges. Understanding that bridges have many components and materials that all come together to make something strong, this is also evident in the process of creating a super strong industrial Dr Martens boot.
It was great to be involved with [Dr Martens]. They were so keen to help and foster graduates, and they could have easily brought in their own team to do this. For me it was a great experience to come straight out of university and work with a professional client.”
From Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Shaun Robinson graduated from BA Performance Design and Practice at Central St. Martins this summer with a distinction.
Robinson says: “Dr Martens asked me to collaborate with another girl from my course, Emily. We both had input on how the space should be built, what materials to use, the dimension of our designs, and so on. The process was really fun, especially this week, as the designs were finally physically there in front of me. I’ve never had one of my designs executed with such precision. The team at Dr Martens treated us all with such respect and the whole experience came with many positives; it’s not just a name and reference to boost our cvs.”
Emily Drake studied Performance Design and Practice at Central St. Martins, but her interests have always been in both Set Design, and Television and Film Production. She comes from what she describes as “a tiny village in Buckinhamshire,” where she is now living after three years in London.
“My involvement with the project began in July. I had to produce a design for the shoe show-space, and my theme was ‘Spirit of ’69: The Original Skinheads’. I found out that my classmate Shaun had also been selected for this project. We were asked to design the Women’s and Men’s room – preferably together, although if we felt it necessary we could split and do one room each.
Luckily, Shaun and I were very familiar with each other’s work, and had very similar ideas, so the process of creating the design was very smooth and logical. The final design was an even contribution from each of us. Although we presented two individual ideas for each room at the initial meeting, we did so with the intention of being able to take the positive and negative feedback, and merge our two ideas together.
It was a very positive experience working with Dr Martens and with Shaun. Not only that, but it was a huge confidence boost to be noticed at the degree show, and to be working in the industry so soon after university, particularly when it’s so hard to make your way as a freelance designer.”