Gloria-Rose Mackaya

In Conversation With: Gloria-Rose Mackaya

February 11, 2022

 Global Footwear Awards winner, Gloria-Rose Mackaya, discussed Inspired Change Initiative, GFA 2021 winning design.

Global Footwear Awards (GFA) has begun its global search to identify visionary designers in footwear. Inspired Change Initiative was awarded the winner of GFA x Sneakers By Women Up-and-Coming Female Designer.

Inspired Change Initiative  was a design competition for young BAME designers in the wake of the BLM protest of 2020. The shoe was originally named “Cozy Day” but later changed to “The Gloria-Rose” after the winner Gloria-Rose Mackaya, 17 at the time of the contest. The shoe is a chunky yet light and comfortable sneaker with vibrant and sunny colors appealing to all genders. The shoe keeps the sole of the original Clint TRL sneaker which is very sporty and outdoor but twists it into a more relaxed and casual pair.

GFA talks with Gloria-Rose about her background and the winning project:

Tell us about your background?

I was born in the South of France from West African parents. I traveled a lot while growing up, living in places like Singapore and Los Angeles, it exposed me to so many different cultures and ways of life, teaching me that there are infinite possibilities in life. Made me try so many hobbies, each as random as the next, I’ve always been very multifaceted and that is something I want to keep being throughout life, I can never really be doing one thing only. Footwear is definitely my main path though, it has been since I discovered it was a career option in High School. Started when I customised old pairs to give them a second life. Over time I started on new pairs then felt I needed to create something from scratch so I researched a lot and fell in love. Found a great course here in the UK and moved to London by myself after graduating to pursue my dreams.


What do you see as the strengths of your winning project? 

I think the design in general and how simple it is yet unique. The colorway was appealing to a lot of people of any gender 


What does this award mean to you personally? 

For me it is not only a huge honor but it is also very encouraging. It means I’m on the right track.


What was most important for you when working on this project and what were the biggest challenges you faced? 

To make sure the prototypes were as close to the original design. The challenging part was the whole covid situation, it caused a lot of delays. 


What is your guiding design principle? 

I would say my intuition to be honest, listening to the little voice inside.


Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work? 

I really get motivation just from the joy that the craft brings me. For the inspiration, it’s usely from whatever I’m interested in the moment.


How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design? 

I discovered it while in high school, I started customising old pairs of shoes because I couldn’t always afford new ones. Gradually I got more interested in designing something from scratch. 


How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision? 

I think it made me very open minded, experimental and multifaceted. I grew up living in 4 different countries across 3 continents, I got exposed to many cultures and constant change. 


Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement? 

Definitely the Inspire Change Initiative, the response to my design was amazing and it has opened me a lot of doors since. 


Which designer in the footwear industry do you most admire and why?

He’s not necessarily only in the footwear industry, but I would say Virgil Abloh first as he is the whole reason I started getting really interested in designing and paying attention to details. But otherwise Helen Kirkum as I find what she does very impressive. 


How do you feel footwear design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future? 

I think it is getting more popular and people realise it doesn’t have to be automatically linked to being a fashion designer. There’s more and more opportunities being created and platforms around it. 


What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career and the industry now?

To be honest at the moment I would say my age, I’m still quite young so getting a job for example is quite complicated as I need more experience and to finish my degree. The biggest opportunities are workshops, contests, grants etc… being more and more present. It really gives opportunities for visibility. 


What would be your dream design project? 

Currently either making a shoe for Nike or Adidas or for a luxury brand like Louis Vuitton.


What’s your thought about the different creative processes and softwares and how they play a role in design today? 

I really love it, gives so many ways to develop ideas that it is manually or digitally, giving different perspectives 


What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a shoe design? What piece of information is of utmost value? 

Who are they going to be made for, who would wear them and what is this person’s potential interests that can relate to the design and be incorporated in marketing. 


What kind of culture or structure needs to exist to foster successful team collaboration?

Definitely a culture around respect, kindness and sharing, lots of communicating. Thinking you kind of have a second family at work and can count on each other. 


How do you deal with feedback? 

I embrace them as long as they are constructive, useful and help me progress. 


What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you? 

Starting building my brand maybe, definitely trying to work with people and have more projects. 


How has the pandemic affected your work and design process? 

I think it affected my learning process at uni at first and being able to go out to events, meet people or get opportunities. 


How do you feel about the topic of sustainability and social impact in regards to footwear design in general? 

They are essential in my opinion, they’re relevant to our current world situation so need to be taken in account more than ever. 


What would you tell your younger self seeing you winning the awards?

Wow you’ll never guess where you’ll end up, turns out you are not going to the olympics anytime soon. 


With so many designs coming out daily, how do you keep pushing boundaries in footwear design?

I think I’m still working on that, not sure if I’m pushing many boundaries yet as I’m just starting, it’ll come naturally I imagine. But maybe my age to achievement ratio could be considered that. 


What advice would you give to future aspiring footwear designers? 

Take everything chances that present themselves no matter how big or small they might be. From grants, contests, workshops etc.. you got nothing to lose in shooting your shot. 


What do you think will keep pushing the footwear industries forward? 

Technology, visibility and inclusion always.


What do you wish to see more of in the footwear industries? 

Women obviously and more head of footwear positions within fashion brands. Like Yoon Ambush is in charge of the jewellery at Dior, I wish there’s something like that for shoes within those kinds of brands.


How do you handle pressure in design? 

I thrive off it but to a certain point, if it’s too much naturally it’s not enjoyable anymore. I like just enough to squeeze the remote crazy ideas out of my subconscious.


How do you feel about the impact of new technology towards footwear design and the industry as a whole? 

It’s great, helps with finding new sustainable processes and making big crazy ideas come to life.


The Global Footwear Design Awards (GFA) is announcing winners for its second edition, showcasing a variety of exceptional creative potential across 20+ categories in all levels; Brands, Independent and Students. The GFA recognizes visionary design talent from around the world with an ambition to provide the highest recognition to footwear designers in all categories including sustainability and social impact.

View other GFA 2021 Winners here


The Global Footwear Awards

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