Hi all, I'm Matt. I'm Head of Design at LANX, responsible for the design and development of all the footwear styles you see (and don't see!). From the initial idea, through to the final product that reaches the shelves: materials, patterns, soles, lasts, you name it, I’ve had my say on it.
How did you get into footwear design?
Well, my background was actually in Illustration. I completed my degree down in Cambridge but pretty quickly I realised that Illustration wasn’t really for me, so I decided to stick it out (mainly for the social side) and then I would try and infiltrate the world of footwear design after I had finished.
Straight after I graduated, I managed to get into a footwear design course over in Portugal, hosted by the ex Head of Design at Nike Air Jordan, D’Wayne Edwards. This was my first real insight into the world of footwear design. The course was fantastic; I got my first taste of the factories, materials, design process etc. I met some great people there too, including talented designers from all over the world and from big brands. It was a massive learning curve for me.
What’s even more amazing is that I managed to win the top prize of the course which was a sum of money and the opportunity for my design to be manufactured and sold to the Portuguese market. (Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either). Unfortunately the logistics got in the way of things and the design never went any further than that, but that didn’t matter to me because this is where the LANX story begins.
One of the designers I made friends with on the course (who was also called Matt) was in talks with Marv at the time regarding designing for LANX. At this point, LANX was still in its infancy and had not yet been launched. Luckily for me, Matt had been offered a different job in Manchester so he kindly passed my details onto Marv. Back then, LANX HQ was in the attic of a shoe shop in Whalley named Nushu. Space was a bit of an issue, so all of the shoes had to be stored in Marv’s Grandma’s front room. Regardless, I was up for the challenge.
I began freelance designing for Marv whilst still working silly hours at a local restaurant. LANX already had its first range designed (AW18), so I at least had a starting point. I was tasked with the job of designing the Spring/Summer 2019 range – a pretty mammoth task for someone with no experience of range building. Looking back, this is by far and above the thing I am most grateful for in my professional working career. Marv giving me the opportunity and the freedom to design this range was a pretty big risk on his behalf and I knew that, so the pressure really was on to make a success of this.
One thing about the design process is that you have to be designing a year or so in advance just so keep up with various deadlines. So shortly after SS19 was signed off, it was straight onto the AW19 range. At the time, each of our ranges were based off trips abroad. AW18 was Marv’s trip around Asia, SS19 was Marv’s trip to New York and now it was time for AW19’s trip which was to Berlin.
It took some convincing to reassure mum that I would be fine going to a foreign country with a man 10 years older than me, who I’d only met 2/3 times. I’m a good judge of character though, and Marv seemed alright.
This was the first time Marv and I were in each other’s company for any length of time, so we were still sussing each other out. The very first thing I noticed about Marv is, if you speak to him while he’s on his phone or reading something on the computer, it is literally like speaking to a brick wall. I’d never seen anything like it before, it’s truly remarkable. I remember trying to make conversation with him in the airport before we flew and just thinking "Oh God, this is going to be a long week, he hates me!" Fortunately that wasn’t the case, and we had a good time drinking lots of beer and eating strange German food. We have since been on 5 more ‘work trips’ abroad, but I think it’s more just an excuse to forget about shoes for a week and drink beer – not complaining!
About my role: Day to day life
Essentially, for a shoe to go into production it has to pass this conveyer belt of processes. There’s: ideation, tech pack creation, colours and materials, material sourcing and sampling. Usually for the ‘big boys’ they would have a person or a team for each section, but luckily I get all of those responsibilities for myself.
There are many ways of working in design, and you can’t knock the big brands for working this way because it would be impossible for one person to do all of these things on a bigger scale. I absolutely love the fact that I have control over everything to do with the shoe. I started this journey with a small idea of what was involved, and everything after that has been firsthand experience of what is right and what is wrong.
For the first few years at LANX, each weekend we would be out at markets and events around Manchester, selling the shoes directly to customers. It was this opportunity to speak to people and understand exactly how people react to my designs that helped my designing process the most. I don’t think that many brands get the opportunity to speak face to face with their customers, so I take pride that I am still involved in this. Nowadays, I take customer suggestions with a pinch of salt, but it’s still good to keep grounded.
To date, I’ve designed 6 full seasonal ranges and various other collaboration projects including Burnley FC and Sale Sharks rugby club.
There are so many other things in the pipeline, but for me the two most exciting projects coming out soon are our new women’s range consisting of 21 new styles, and some LANX trainers. The trainers especially are exciting to me, because this was my passion long before working for LANX was on the cards.
Right now, we have built a platform for us to be creating products we are genuinely excited to release. The brogues and boots are the bread and butter of LANX and we will always have a love for these styles. As we keep growing and as I keep learning more, the opportunities to bring out new styles grow too. I’m excited to see how LANX evolves over the next few years, I’m immensely proud of how far we have come so far and I can’t see us slowing down any time soon.