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Meet: Mark Lightfoot

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Published date 19 April 2016

Mark Lightfoot graduated from BA (Hons) Media & Production Design at London College of Communication in 1992.  After a successful career in advertising spanning 25 years, he decided to completely change his life and set up his own luxury leather goods brand, Cavesson’s London. Spawned from a ‘light bulb moment’ when going through airport security, the idea grew and evolved, with Mark calling upon his diverse and rich experience to turn the concept into a reality.

Mark Lightfoot

Mark Lightfoot

Where were you and what were you doing before you came to LCC?
I’m half English and half Maltese. I grew up and went to school in the UK. Up until the lower sixth form I was all set to go and do medicine. My father is a doctor, and from a young age I thought that is what I wanted to do too. I’ll always remember the letter he wrote to me at school on learning that I wanted to ditch medicine in favour of the arts. He told me “I don’t mind what you do, as long as what you do is what you love”. I spent a gap year after college doing a sort of home grown conversion course / pre-foundation. I applied to Somerset College of Arts and Technology and through a family connection was introduced to The London College of Printing, where I also applied.

What made you chose LCC? And did you enjoy your time there?
On leaving school, and deciding to change direction from medicine to art, I spent a few months preparing a portfolio – photography, life drawing, various projects – I interviewed, and got a place on the LCP art foundation course. I moved to London in September 1987, and started what turned into 5 years at the Elephant and Castle campus. From foundation I went on to join the four year Media & Production Design course.  I really liked the atmosphere at the college. I had a few connections via a family friend, and an old school mate was there as well – so it came very well recommended.

What are your best memories of your time there?
My tutors were great, and I remember being pushed and encouraged all the time. I was there at a really exciting time, an inflection point – DTP and the Mac were starting to take hold but at the same time I was able to do real hands-on stuff – in the print room I did screen printing, etching, lithography; I did typesetting by hand, used a Linotype machine and typeset using a phototypesetting console. I remember seeing the huge web offset presses and feeling the majesty of it all. I did photographic printing by hand, made AV productions using Kodak carousel projectors. In fact my final year show projects were completely hands-on using Super 8, a U-matic Video edit suite, hand drawn 35mm cibachrome and bleach, 8 track music recording, high contrast litho film… and occasionally a Mac.

The memorable stuff is the hands on; we did use the computer but I have to say I did my most enjoyable work, my most significant work, was with tangible, physical things.

My year group was an amazing bunch. We were all from different backgrounds but we really got on well. I have really good memories from that time. We’re now all spread over the globe – USA, UK, Tokyo, Australia… and we still keep in touch.

What have you been doing since?
Since graduating in 1992 I have been living and working in Malta. I worked for a large advertising agency, I was a design consultant for a Maltese government agency and eventually I setup my own company in 1997 along with a partner. We are now firmly established as one of Malta’s leading branding and web development agencies. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to work on some great projects. The work is diverse and challenging. Running a small business means you get to do all aspects. Living in the Mediterranean has given me the opportunity to develop my sailing skills too!

And how did you come to launch
About two years ago I happened to be travelling through Heathrow on the way back to Malta. I had on a leather belt and going through security I realised that I did not need to take it off – as I had a detachable metal buckle. I just unclipped that part and put it through the scanner. It got me thinking about a product – leather belts for the business traveller; high quality, with a real design touch. You know how these things can snowball. The idea stuck in my mind, and I kept turning it over. I researched and researched, amassing a huge cache of data about air travel, airside retail, leather goods, luxury, business travellers, leather production and history in the UK, and Europe… in time the idea grew beyond belts and I developed a business plan and a concept for an entire product range. I became obsessed with the idea. I fell in love with it all.

On 14th February 2014 I formed the company and set about trying to raise finance to make the dream a reality. I tried the banks, Government agencies… and finally found a private investor who believed in what I was trying to achieve. After a year of planning and pitching I landed my first round of investment and was able to start building the brand properly.

The great thing about it was using all the experience I had gained from working for other clients. I was able to apply this to my own project. I was in effect the client, and an ideal one at that, because I always approved the budgets. I could specify Colourplan paper without an argument! And when it came to choosing my factory – despite desperately wanting to work in the UK – I found the most amazing and talented team in Ubrique in Spain. These wonderful artisans, craftsmen and women of the highest calibre, work on some of the most prestigious luxury brands; and I was able to have them work with me!

I’ve crafted every single aspect of the brand experience. The product, the packaging, the website, the copy, the collateral, the sales and marketing. It’s exhausting doing it all on your own and I will definitely have to get help very soon, but it’s been hugely rewarding. Not unlike when I produced my degree show.

Mark with Cavessons case

Tell us more about the brand and your plans for the future…
The trademark for  “Cavesson’s London” is owned by Cavesson’s International Limited and licensed to Cavesson’s (London) Limited for the marketing and sales of branded product through a dedicated online store. Just like the branding, I’ve crafted the business structure for the long term, with a clear vision of the future development of the business. Starting this venture later in life – rather than straight out of college – has given me a completely different perspective. I couldn’t have done it before now. I needed the last 20 or so years to build the relevant experience!

Cavesson’s is a very English brand. It’s heart though is very Mediterranean. Just like me. This comes through in the approach to the design – a quiet, reserved exterior, with a loud, exuberant heart. The products all have this quality and I’ve chosen very particular combinations in the colourways. There’s a definite personality to each colour grouping – black and red, blue and yellow, brown and orange. Something for everyone.

My plans for the development of the company are focused on building the company with measure and balance – I wish to create a connoisseur brand and I have my sights set on growing my UK market, and eventually take it to the Far East – specifically Japan. I believe very much in the Japanese market and also their culture. It’s a lofty goal, but I think you need big ones like this. It really helps to focus and provide a clear sense of direction.

See all of Cavesson’s luxury leather products here.

Find out more about the courses offered at London College of Communication.