Darren McKoy, Dr. Martens’ new Global Creative Director, says he takes a holistic approach to design, as the iconic British brand surges forward. Like almost everyone in the company’s family, he is a life-long Docs wearer.
“We’ll continue to innovate and tell the brand story through the way we create, the processes we adopt and the way we interact with our wearers. But we’ll always pay homage and respect to the heritage and history of the brand,” he notes.
How does Dr. Martens select its collaborators?
We go through a lengthy process to ensure that our partner brands carry the same ethos, codes and principles as us. We focus always on the brands, designers and creatives who are trying to do something unique, ambitious and honest.
We only create partnerships where we know it will elevate both us and them – with the goal of creating something functional, something durable and most importantly creating something unique together. This is always at the top of our agenda.
For us it’s never short-term one-offs but more about creating meaningful connections that will appeal to our wearers. We’re always looking to tell interesting product stories or connect to unique audiences – and collaborations are a way we can forge these new connections.
How Does Dr. Martens heritage affect its design process?
Our heritage is at the heart of the current design process and will remain there always. The intrinsic elements of Dr. Martens as a brand are what have got us to where we are today and we all – including me and the design team – strive to forever be respectful of that. For this reason, we don’t want to lose sight of where we’ve come from. Everything we do – from reworking our core silhouettes to our product innovation, is rooted in heritage.
We’ve had license to experiment and evolve – because that has been part of our story – but we will always remain rooted in the functionality and durability that runs in our DNA. The people who work at Dr. Martens are incredibly passionate about the brand and its history and we want to create the next generation of wearers who will have that same passion in the generations to come. We can push the designs, remix, rework and innovate – but that custodian attitude is what will always stay the same.
What’s the essence of the Dr. Martens brand?
From a design point of view, it’s our core silhouettes – our icons; the 1460 boot, 1461 shoe and 2976 Chelsea boot. They’ve been the spine of our line-up for decades. But it’s also specific elements like our Bouncing Sole, the Goodyear welt stitch, our scripted heel hoop and our original Smooth Leather which contribute to defining our brand. All these elements will continue to appear in our footwear for now and in the future. Beyond that, Dr. Martens is about celebrating subcultures and music, about being authentic, and having a rebellious spirit – just like the wearers who have been championing us for the last 60 years.
How are you influenced by subcultures?
DM’s has been part of different modern subcultures since… well forever! And we always hope to support these communities going forward. Every season our creative team looks to these groups for inspiration, they’re what drive the brand forward into new and natural territories.
The fascinating thing is that it’s always changing; just look at the punk movement, there’s still people from that community today that are rocking the same look and attitude from back then. In the same breath you can see how new generations have taken that same spirit or attitude, and woven it into their own aesthetic, adapting to how they want to look. That’s the space we need to remain in.
How do you introduce innovation into a legacy brand?
This is about starting with the core elements of the brand and making sure that anything we introduce is authentic to what has come before. Then we amplify those elements or can introduce new materials that push the brand forward. It’s always been a case of trying to evolve our footwear, rather than start from a totally clean slate, because then it asks the question: would the end-product even be a Dr. Martens product?
I feel incredibly lucky to be working for a company that is a genuine cultural and design icon. Part of that includes protecting Dr. Martens legacy even when looking to the future -especially when looking to the future. Rest assured whatever we do it will always be done in the Doc Martens way.
What’s next for Dr. Martens?
I see us continuing to do what we’re doing right now: building the classics, pushing new categories forward, and embracing the communities and cultures that champion the brand.
We’ve always been driven by the creatives and rebels in society, so we want to keep elevating them and not just taking inspiration. We’ll continue to respect our past whilst looking towards the next generation of wearers and building them into the DM’s family.
Essentially telling new narratives with our rich heritage.
The DNA of Dr. Martens is never going to change but we can continue to modernize our influences, processes and techniques. You can’t predict what’s going to be happening 5, 10, 25 years from now but I can tell you that the same ethos will always be running through the heart of Dr. Martens.