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Martin Dean

Creative director, Cushe

What does your job involve?

My role involves heading up all creative direction for the product, brand and marketing of [lifestyle footwear brand] Cushe. At the start of each season, we identify areas where we can improve or explore new ideas that will strengthen our product offering and our position in the market. My role is to first create project briefs and then go about designing and developing the product. Over a six-month period I work alongside the rest of our design

and development team in the UK, Asia and the US, bringing these new concepts to life. Throughout the season I will present the new line at prototype stages to the heads of all divisions. I will also work closely with our marketing team to create material to support each product story as well as overall brand message.

What skills do you need?

Passion and appreciation for good design. A flair for embracing trends but making them relevant to your brand’s own DNA. Not being afraid to push boundaries to create something that’s exciting, unique, yet commercial. I’m still a fan of designing the old-school way (by hand) but as my team have proven, combining a creative flair with strong Illustrator/Photoshop skills works well too. Knowing your product is key, so an understanding of the shoemaking craft and materials are important foundations. From there, you just need creativity.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I love the whole product cycle, from the creation of a new concept to working with a talented team to bring it to life, to seeing the end product on people’s feet. The travel can be fun too, although having spent the best part of 16 years travelling overseas, there is no place like home.

How did you get to where you are today?

First of all, by doing what I love and having the opportunity early on in my career to work on a broad range of brands and gain knowledge across design, development and sales. From then on, I’ve always been on the lookout for the next gap or opportunity in the market. I’ve been fortunate to work with and surround myself with good people and I’ve always followed my heart when taking the occasional risk. However, finding the balance between commercial reasoning and creative ambition means, equally, you need to listen to your head.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Initially, it would have to be the first time I saw someone that didn’t work for the company wearing Cushe.

What is your ambition?

To establish Cushe as a leading global lifestyle footwear brand.

How do you intend to get there?

By continuing to ask that very same question.

What three words sum you up?

Optimistic, creative and driven.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

There are a few universities and college courses in the UK that focus on footwear design and manufacturing, including De Montfort in Leicester and London College of Fashion. From there, find a job in a company offering a broad experience with hands-on learning to perfect your craft.

CV

2009 Creative director, Cushe

2002 Co-founder, footwear design and licensing business Dragonfly Venture Group

2000 Footwear designer, CAT Footwear

1996 Footwear designer, Pentland Shoe Company, Pentland Group

1994 Diploma in Footwear Design and Manufacturing, Leicester South Fields School of Footwear

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