Jason Beckley was appointed to the newly created role of chief brand officer for Clarks in August 2015. Since then, he’s been working in the wings, leading a restructure of the British heritage shoemaker. The first collection that will truly have his stamp will be fall 2017, and he has given Footwear News an exclusive sneak preview of one of the fall ’17 styles, the Trace Dusk boot.
Beckley, who was previously global marketing director at Dunhill and senior vice-president of marketing at Ralph Lauren, has a resumé that also includes roles at Saint Laurent, Nike and Alexander McQueen.
Here he shares both his youthful passions and his vision for the British brand.
How did you get into fashion?
I didn’t sit at home dreaming of being a fashion designer. I was a country boy, but I became increasingly influenced by image and youth culture. It felt like a moment when the alternative had the voice and there was an anarchy in the air. I wanted to be a part of it, so I left my job on the farm and moved to London, showed up at LCF and asked if I could study there.
Did you wear Clarks shoes at school?
Yes, I did. I literally grew up with them, as we lived seven miles from the factory.
So what does a chief brand officer actually do?
I’m responsible for the things we make, the messages we send and the places our consumer interacts with our brands.
Tell us about your management style.
I like to work in large teams as it’s important to have the opinion of all. My marketing review meetings often involve up to 80 people. I also travel intensely, but everyone has my number, and we use Whatsapp as a main contact point.
What was the first thing you changed?
I got rid of the consultants, agencies, processes and inward procedures and handed the brand back to the internal team. Everything you see from next season is their work.
What is the first change you instigated that consumers will notice?
In early 2017, there will be a new website, so hopefully people will notice more clarity in the use of audience specific media.
Tell us about the fall ’17 collection.
Expect stylish shoes with a combination of craft and tradition born out in the shape, the material, the rugged techniques, the high quality, the great fit and the fantastic underfoot comfort. I want people to really recognize a Clarks shoe when they see one.
Will there be more or fewer product categories?
Fewer, but they will be much more specific in their presentation, much more lifestyle influenced, less generic and less about gender.
Who is the Clarks customer, and whom else would you like to entice?
Diversity is the critical thing. I believe everybody should wear good shoes.
What would you like your legacy at Clarks to be?
I took a member of the Clarks family into the showroom to preview fall ‘17. He was very quiet for quite a long time, then he looked and me and said, “Gosh, it looks exactly like Clarks again.” If you do my job, that is the legacy you constantly strive for.