Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Tommy Mallet, Co-Founder & Creative Director of Mallet London and Evren Ozka, Co-Founder & Business Director of Mallet London.
Inspired by the streets of London, this footwear brand mirrors its diversity through fabric layering techniques and a fashion-forward aesthetic with futuristic sole options.
By bridging the gap from day to night, these British entrepreneurs broke the traditional style rules and founded this contemporary footwear and clothing brand in 2015. With minimalist sneakers for both men and women, these cult kicks can be paired with the brand’s vast selection of ensembles that include, shorts, logo t-shirts, jackets and more.
Tommy Mallet, Co-Founder & Creative Director of Mallet London
Known for its fine attention to detail, the brand has levelled up with its contemporary designs over the years and to delve into the founders’ entrepreneurial success story, Emirates Man speaks to them.
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What was your favourite subject at school?
TM: School wasn’t a strong point for me, I grew up with learning difficulties that I now know later in life was ADHD, this made it very tough for me to concentrate, but on the plus side It made me super focused if I was interested in something, I was always amazing at graphic design and also design technology, any subject that required vision and I could see a clear outcome was more suitable to me, I also loved art, I found it very calming and loved putting whatever was in my head onto paper, I love expressing myself through my creativity, it makes me feel content.
EO: My favorite subject was English/Literature, only because of my teacher Mr. Mahir. He helped me understand that it was not so much the subjects he taught that were important but the actual act and process of learning that was valuable. I was always naturally curious, but in that class, I learned how to be a lifelong learner.
What was your first job?
TM: I left school in 2008 and followed in my older brother’s footsteps and went into construction, I studied architecture In London and worked in Canary Wharf, this job taught me a lot, I spent most of my time learning how to use auto cad and measuring up properties and then drawing them into autocad, I ended up bailing out of college on this job because the mathematics side and my learning difficulties didn’t work well together.
EO: Unloading lorries full of garments by hand in one of my father‘s warehouses in East London. It was really tough physical labour with long hours, at the time I hated it, but looking back I’m glad I was made to start at the bottom. I think that experience definitely helped towards crafting my work ethic and passion.
What inspired you to enter the shoe industry and launch your own footwear brand?
TM: In 2015 I joined a UK Reality TV show, for me footwear was my life and I was always passionate about it, around this time I was just starting a new career and wasn’t financially earning enough to keep up with what I wanted to wear on my feet, at this time the Italian and French brands were dominating the footwear industry and I was wearing luxury instead of sportswear, but the price tags made it hard to pursue my hobby, so I started drawing shoes in my spare time (very badly). Luckily enough, I met Evren who had experience in production and the rest in history.
EO: The early part of my career was spent manufacturing for some of the biggest brands in the world. Manufacturing was a great business but being in that industry I could see that ultimately the freedom and control always lie with the brand. I also had a real interest in sports and luxury sneakers, I believe every great outfit starts with the perfect pair of shoes so when the opportunity presented itself I was very enthusiastic to take on the challenge ahead.
Talk us through the inspiration for your products.
TM: With Mallet, it’s all about remembering where it started. I like to go back to my routes and take into consideration my feelings at the time, every sneaker has a story of its own and is named after roads I walked down in North London as a child. At Mallet, we like to offer the best quality products at reasonable prices so the brand is accessible to everybody, we do this by using quality mixes of materials with gold and silver hardware, and our key focus is making sure we keep it moving and don’t put all of our attention into just one style, we like to offer a whole range for our customers that tell different stories so they can be worn on all different occasions.
What are the key elements of your role?
TM: I’m fully invested in the brand and it’s part of my life. Being a co-founder of the brand, my role seems to be spread over all departments, from leading the creative vision with the product and anything Mallet related, to develop from concept to physical samples. I also assist my team on production. We have a great Head of Development, called Kevin, who I learn so much because he’s a veteran in the game and knows everything about footwear. I spend time sitting down with merchandisers and making an online plan with our digital marketing team. I also love storytelling so I’m very passionate about the PR and marketing of the brand. We have a really talented, hungry team who live and breathe the brand as I do. I find myself spending a lot of time with our Head of Marketing, Callum, deciding the direction of our campaigns and working out how we can get the most for each sneaker launch and also our clothing collection that is starting to come together. Clothing is a very exciting part of our brand and it’s starting to build momentum. We have just finalized the most beautiful collection made from some of the softest materials we could find. I’ve been working on this with our Head of Clothing, Maria, who is also teaching me so much about materials and fits. Anything growth related I like to be involved in, from retail negotiations to collaborations, this year has been a huge year for us and we have already signed three collaborations off since January. I love the hustle and ensure every day is about making the brand better than yesterday.
EO: My day-to-day usually revolves around the business side of the brand, finances, budgeting, marketing and online. But when you’re a business owner you have to be willing to wear multiple hats, get involved in all aspects of the business, and do whatever it takes to keep it moving.
Evren Ozka, Co-Founder & Business Director of Mallet London
Why did you move to Dubai?
EO: The main reasons to move to Dubai were the safe and secure environment and its flourishing economy. I see this as a great opportunity to expand our brand here, not only in the UAE but in the rest of the world.
Talk us through your daily routine.
TM: I wake up and do an audit of anything related to Mallet, from social media to websites. I like to check what our retail partners are doing and make sure the brand is being perceived right. I also like to check out business press to see what moves are being made in the industry, followed by a 7am workout which is non-negotiable, then have breakfast with my son, we do some learning or sometimes just watch cartoons. I then make my way to the office or any meetings I have and make my calls for the day on the way to work. Being on the ground is unpredictable so every day is different, all I try to do is make sure I’m home before 7pm to put my son to bed, this isn’t always possible but I try my best, and most evenings I have a few hours filming mine and my family’s show that is on TV on Thursdays, routine is big for me because of my ADHD so I try to stick to it as much as I can.
EO: My alarm goes off at 4:00 AM, I always start the day with an ice bath and a run. I never listen to music while running, I spend the time thinking about the day or week ahead and contemplating my next moves. I’ll get a quick shower in and take my two boys to school. Then I’ll grab a big coffee and start responding to emails, taking calls and going to meetings. You never know what the day is going to bring, and no two days are the same so you have to be ready for anything. It’s difficult for me to segregate between work and home life, when you are an entrepreneur they both kind of blend and become one.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
TM: Don’t take no for an answer and don’t forget why you started, it’s important to keep focused and not give up after the first disappointment you will receive, you need to do what you love and don’t give up until you are happy with what you have achieved (this is easier said than done because success is addictive) but as long as you enjoy what you do it’s not a bad addiction. Keep it moving and go and get it, let’s go!
EO: Choose something that you’re passionate about and be absolutely obsessed. The path to success is not a linear one, no matter what you choose to do there is a 100% chance that there are going to be obstacles, difficulties and disappointments. If you’re not totally dedicated to what you do it’s going to be almost impossible to get through the hard times, but if you love the work you can remember why you started in the first place and the setbacks become manageable, then it’s a matter of problem solving.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
TM: My best advice was to grab opportunities with both hands and make it all count, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, what’s the worst that can happen.
EO: The best advice I have ever received is ‘Don’t listen to advice’! Every situation is unique and nobody has been in the exact same time and place as you, so get opinions and information from as many experienced people as you can but ultimately remember the decision is yours to make.
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And what is the worst?
TM: Sometimes you have to accept you just aren’t good enough, this is the worst mentality you can have, and if you have the right mindset anything is possible, just believe.
EO: ‘Hard work pays off’ is a lie. It’s not enough to work hard, everybody works hard. Extraordinary results require extraordinary actions, if you really want to be successful you have to be totally devoted and driven to do what nobody else is willing to.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
TM: Being diagnosed with ADHD was tough for me when I turned 30, I had to make a lot of decisions that was going to change my life, but thank god it worked for the better, and I’m grateful every day that I could get the right help to be a good father and have more ability to take the brand even further. I’m more focused than ever and passionate to make Mallet the best it can be, no matter what challenges you are presented with every cloud has a silver lining.
EO: During the early days of the brand there was a tough period where we were receiving nothing but no’s and we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. We were unknown in the footwear industry and sometimes it’s hard for retail stores to take a chance on a new brand. But we knew we had a great product, so we remained positive and kept on grinding until we finally started to get noticed.
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