Red Dot Award: Design Concept

Interview with Portwest designer, Ben Smith

Converting into three functional garments, the zip off legs of The Ultimate Modular Work Trouser can be reversed, to transform the trouser into a class one high-visibility trouser for increased visibility. The zip off legs can also be completely removed to convert the trouser into shorts for hot stress conditions. This Ready To Launch design concept is a Red Dot winner in the Fashion and Accessories Category. Senior Product Manager of the Global Workwear team at Portwest, Mr Ben Smith shares more about design with Red Dot.

What comes to you first: business or customer?

The customer is king. At Portwest, we believe in listening to our customers learning from them and delivering products they need; and improving on products every day.

What is your biggest design career moment?

Being awarded a Red Dot for something that I thought of is very special and right up there as a highlight. When I found out I had the biggest smile on my face for a week. Every time I see a product that I designed, or was part of the process on, ‘out in the wild’ and knowing that someone has spent their own hard earn money on it, is always a great moment. 

What inspired you about developing this design concept?

My first thought was what has no one else done before. I spent a long time thinking about this.  I was looking at other products in our range and wondered if we could apply the same multi-use idea to trousers, as we have on jackets. Then working with Rebecca Clare (Head of Design in Portwest), we set about learning what else was always an issue for the wearer. The idea initially, was to achieve a product that could work for as many different trades as possible, and really set Portwest apart from other workwear brands.

How would you describe your design research?

Chaos! I look at everything, old garments, new garments, other workwear brands, Sportwear and fashion brands. When away from my desk, I’m always looking to see what workers are wearing and what can we improve. Plus, what tools and equipment our customers are using and can we improve our product around this. The great part of workwear is that the customer is different every time.

How would you describe your team’s work culture? What would it be your ideal?

If I had to pick one word for the culture in my team, it would be the word ‘effective’. There are over 1700 products sold by Portwest across 3 region-specific catalogues. We add around 150 new styles every year. The process of managing, developing and ending a product is a huge task.  Plus, having special projects like these modular work trousers, just adds an extra bit of fun to the workday as well. My perfect team culture would be effective and driven with a little bit of chaos, as I find some of the best ideas come from the creative fringe.

Make plans for the future

From now until 24 April 2024, companies, design studios and young professionals can submit their design concepts and have them evaluated by an international jury of experts in order to win one of the coveted distinctions of the Red Dot Award: Design Concept.

Entire registration period: 1 December 2023 – 24 April 2024
Early Submission              1 December 2023 – 24 January 2024
Standard Submission        24 January 2024 – 13 March 2024
Late Submission               14 March 2024 – 24 April 2024