Wednesday, 11 July 2012

RCA MA Showase... Tariq Mahmoud


Approximately one month in to my Law and Sociology degree (or perhaps even before I sat down in my first lecture) I knew deep down that I didn't want to pursue a career in the field of law. The course itself was enjoyable enough but I soon understood that the profession just wasn't right for me. That moment now feels like a lifetime ago and I've pursued a very different path. A similar realisation happened to Tariq Mahmoud, albeit a little later than mine. Whilst training as a solicitor at a large law firm in the City he, thankfully for us, opted for a complete change in direction and set his sights on a career as a shoe designer. Then came the nine year journey of preparing and learning that has culminated in an MA at the RCA. "I quickly realised that it wouldn't be a job that I would find satisfying or motivating ten years down the road," admits the recent graduate fresh after his acclaimed presentation. The catalyst was an ES Magazine feature that showcased six aspiring young women's shoe designers who had all recently graduated from Coardwainers at LCF. "Not only did the light bulb go over the idea that there were actually opportunities out there as a shoe designer but I thought, 'hang on a minute, why isn't anyone paying attention to men?' I was frustrated by the lack of choice compared to the women's market. It seemed to me that men's footwear hadn't moved on in to the same expressive territory as men's apparel (these were the days before the likes of Mr. Hare), so the decision was a combination of a long standing appreciation, spotting an opportunity and ultimately a desire to find a job I thought I would really enjoy." Having spent the last nine years honing his craft, Mahmoud confidently moves in to the spotlight and deservedly steps closer to realising his dream.

Tariq Mahmoud's nine year journey gathered pace following a diploma at Cordwainers and valuable industry experience at Lodger and Pointer. It was during his stint as junior designer and operations manager at Lodger where I first encountered the enthusiastic shoeist. Looking back now, Lodger's mix of continuous design, in combination with cutting edge technology and traditional craftsmanship was the perfect place for the emerging talent to grow. During this time he worked closely with Annejkh Carson, a RCA men's footwear graduate and it was only a matter of time before he followed her path. "The quality and integrity pf her designer approach underlined to me the strength of the course. One of the things that sets footwear at the RCA apart is its unique positioning as a specialism within the fashion menswear course. I've learned so much from being among the fashion students and from the guidance of the fashion tutors" he admits, looking fondly back over his time at the RCA.

"The ability to combine new materials and technologies with classic shoemaking skills and heritage because I want those invaluable skills to survive," purrs the design talent. Whilst inspired by the elegance and simplicity of classic men's footwear, he wishes to breathe fresh life and excitement a more modern gentleman by experimenting with combinations of materials and finishing techniques. "The collection starts from my love of classic men's shoe styles - the Derby, the Longwing, the Chelsea boot - from their elegance and simplicity. The challenge was to make them relevant and contemporary in terms of shape." To accomplish this, the designer examined the foot and its relation to the last which led to much experimentation with silhouette and the pattern line. Mahmoud explains his inspiration and shares a few of the images that graced his mood board...

"I looked at the shape of the heel bone which is far sharper and angular than the soft tissue around it and translated this in to the faceted shapes at the backs of some of the shoes. The classic rounded toe shapes are retained but the silhouette is sharpened (literally) by the heel. I continued this approach with the patterns for the uppers by breaking down the curves from traditional shoe patterns in to a series of diagonals and corners.

I also thought about the beautiful contour that runs along the base of the last from the tow down to the joint and then swooping up in the arch and heel. Initially I used clear perspex for the heels with the ideas that they would 'disappear' on a profile view. Of course, with the way the prisms reflect and refract light they became features in their own right. I collaborated with Lily Kamper, a mixed media student at the RCA, who used dip-dye techniques to create smoked effects on the perspex. Lily also machined lathed the cores of some of the heels to make modernist cut out patterns which create optical effects inside the heel. The opportunity to work with such talented people from a huge range of design disciplines is another invaluable feature of the RCA course.

In terms of colour and material, the oil installations of Richard Wilson and the abstracts of Gerhard Richter really got me thinking about classic back as a texture rather than merely a colour." 

E-FC Sketch Line Up
A look at Mahmoud's inspiration and a sketch of the full collection.

Drawing on biology, art, architecture and the beauty of nature, Tariq Mahmoud's graduate collection showcases unexpected silhouettes and combinations of materials to stunning effect. His is a talent that strives to works create modern statement shoes for men who want to express their confidence and individuality. Here he explains the coming together of a few innovative techniques and introduces us to the collection itself...

"There are several different techniques at work on the uppers, my favourite is the mink fur beneath clear pvc. The pelt is compressed to produce fluid marbled patterns which, from a distance, look almost as if they are printed. I love that such a precious material is put tantalising out of reach, making it even more luxurious in a sense. I have also hand applied droplets of resin on to leather, either in place of a brogued medallion or in a more organic way to look like raindrops. Also, there is a white untreated chrome tan leather which is dip-dyed black, the dye disappears in to a band of purples and greys.

For me, in a truly great shoe there is an almost mesmeric harmony between the contours of the last, the lines of the pattern and the proportions of the sole and heel. Millimetre changes make a huge difference so finding that harmony is a very satisfying moment."

TariqM Static Display 2012
E-FC Catalogue
E-FC Chelsea Photo
E-FC Derby Photo
E-FC Desert Boot Photo
E-FC Longwing Photo
TariqM Static Display 2012(2)
A look at his graduate presentation and a closer look at the collection itself.

I can't recall encountering a more accomplished and considered graduate collection. The combination of his appreciation of classic footwear and his thirst to innovate is a magical one. The cocktail of classic and modern, expected and surprising, age old techniques and technological innovation is a heady and seductive one. So what does the future hold in store for the design talent? For Tariq Mahmoud, the goal is to design for a house that has the the resources to allow him to continue to experiment and develop his vision of men's footwear. The following admission sums up this shoeist perfectly, "I just love the design process and love seeing beautiful shoes at the end of it so I'm not sure having my own name on them would make me any happier." I'm certain that we'll be seeing (and no doubt wearing) the fruits of Mahmoud's footwear experiments and development for years to come. Thank goodness he made that career change.


Joy D. said...

Mixed medium-durable shoes. Who wouldn't want a pair?

Joe said...

Amazing post, love the rain drop effect - so chic.

Mr. Hare said...

Awesome Tariq !! Do you have any job plans?

ImeldaMatt said...

"I can't recall encountering a more accomplished and considered graduate collection." Steve, I wholeheartedly concur. Not since discovering Mr. Hare have I been so thoroughly captivated by such craftsmanship.

Where does the queue start?


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