Set Free Richardson Is Clarks Originals' New Creative Specialist

Richardson spoke to Hypebeast on his new role, history with the brand and more.

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Set Free Richardson — also known as DJ Set Free, or just “Set” to his friends — is a multidisciplinary creative force. He’s the creator of the legendary AND1 Mixtape series, founder of The Compound and a winner of the Silver and Bronze Lion awards at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Set’s been steeped in hip-hop and basketball culture for well over two decades, and now he’s bringing his unique perspective to Clarks Originals as the brand’s new Creative Specialist.

In the role, Set’ll be responsible for working on collaborations, production for live events and more. He’s collaborated directly with the brand in the past, creating a basketball-inspired Compound x Clarks Originals Wallabee collection called “Floor Seats,” and now is ready to step into a larger role. “Thinking outside of the box and connecting cultures has always been my formula,” Set told Hypebeast. “No matter if I’m working on something relating to hip-hop, basketball or art it always gets the job done, and I’m confident that mindset will apply to this role as well.”

See Hypebeast’s full conversation with Set Free Richardson below.


What’s your first memory of Clarks Originals?

I remember seeing my favorite hip-hop artists wearing them. I was like “these are the perfect alternative to sneakers and I need a black pair!”

“Creative Specialist” is a unique title. What exactly does it entail for your relationship with Clarks Originals, and what, exactly, will you be taking on in the role?

I’ll be directing content for Clarks Originals, producing events and working on various projects for the brand. One of my biggest personal goals is to help further connect the brand in the hip-hop and basketball space.

You’ve collaborated with the brand before — what was the best thing about that experience?

A lot of brands bring you in for a collaboration because they like what you do, then they immediately handcuff you to pre-existing ideas. Clarks Originals didn’t do that: they gave me an assignment and then let me have the creative freedom that I needed to bring the project to life in my own way. When you can work like that, the universe is the limit.

When you’re working with an entity that has as rich of a cultural history as Clarks Originals, what approach do you take? Are you trying to add to the existing legacy, spotlight it in a new and different way, or something else entirely?

Everyone’s got their own Clarks Originals story, and all of those stories are valid because the brand means so many different things to so many different people. My job is to put a magnifying glass on the brand and help tell its story in the most thorough manner possible.

Where do you think Clarks Originals sits in the greater sneaker culture lexicon? It does collaborations but is not a hype-driven brand, seems to prioritize elegance and timelessness and, if we’re being technical, is more of a shoe than a “sneaker!”

It’s definitely a brand that sits in its own realm. From the upper to the sole, there’s nothing quite like a Clarks Originals shoe. You can dress it up or down, do whatever you want with it. I just know that if a brand’s been around for 200 years they’re doing a lot of things right.

How has everything you’ve done in the past prepared you for this role?

Thinking outside of the box and connecting cultures has always been my formula. No matter if I’m working on something relating to hip-hop, basketball or art it always gets the job done, and I’m confident that mindset will apply to this role as well.

What’s the main thing you hope to achieve in this role?

To be able to amplify the success the brand has already had, and help them tell their story to the world. I want to showcase some of these beautiful products as well!

What, to you, is the most unique thing about Clarks Originals?

It’s gotta be the Wallabee. It made its mark in hip-hop culture early on and has stayed true since then. Even to this day, it’s the OG — and it doesn’t chase hype.

Last but not least: what’s your favorite Clarks Originals silhouette? I’m guessing the Wallabee?

Yup, the Wallabee. Or, as I like to call it, the Wallyfree [laughs].

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