Mal studied at undergraduate level at Edinburgh College of Art from 1993 to 1997, gaining a first class degree in fashion womenswear. Following this he studied at MA level at The Royal College of Art. After graduation, Mal worked in Italy as designer for United Colours of Benetton, and then as a freelance designer. Returning to Edinburgh, he established the design label, MalandLeigh, in partnership with knitwear designer Leigh Bagley, specialising in fashion and interiors.
In addition to his role as Programme Director for Fashion at Edinburgh College of Art, Mal is currently an External Examiner at the London College of Fashion, and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.
Current research explores and challenges the relationship between fashion design and body image. Recognising the unhealthy representations of beauty, size and youth endorsed by the fashion industry, Mal seeks to develop innovative methods of design and research celebrating the end context of design as part of the research and design process. This research in incorporated into the teaching curriculum to develop student’s awareness of costumer contexts beyond a catwalk presentation and with the ambition to create more visionary, relevant, sustainable and emotionally considerate design outcomes.
Additional research interests focus on the relationship between fashion designers and the embodiment of their emotions in products. Previous research has explored how new language is required to articulate why emotions are valid and rich components of the research and design process, exploring emotional perceptions of our everyday worlds interpreted as design solutions. He has challenged traditional fashion research methods by replacing standard visual and textual research with emotional and physical research intuitively developed into design methods.
Beauty by Design – Fashioning the Renaissance
This project combines art historical research with contemporary fashion design to question cultural commonplaces about beauty and body image and challenge the hegemony of today’s media-driven ‘thin ideal’.
Mal’s practice based design work is produced in close collaboration with renowned lace manufacture Sophie Hallette, where he uses lace and transparent tailoring to express themes of beauty, body image, gender and diversity.
Launched at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in September 2012, Beauty by Design capitalises upon the research interests and strengths of a number of experts at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).
As well as a research-led exhibition, events related to the project have included a workshop with a group of people with a range of visual impairments who explored the beauty and tactility of the lace through a descriptive tour.
Mal's work was recently exhibited at the prestigious International Centre for Lace and Fashion in Calais. Including newly commissioned work, the exhibition was located in the contemporary fashion gallery alongside designers including Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Iris Von Herpen.
The Diversity Network is a collaboration between Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, an initiative challenging the fashion industry’s dependence on unachievable and unhealthy body ideals. Launched with the help of Government Minister, Lynne Featherstone, at Graduate Fashion Week June 2011, it promotes ‘emotionally considerate’ design and practice through innovative educational methods and research.
In 2016, the Network was awarded ‘Research Networks in the Arts & Humanities’ funding for two years of activities in Scotland by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). The funding will be spent on designing new cultures of communication for fashion industries, facilitating a move away from digitally ‘perfected’ bodies and underweight, youthful models.
In 2008, Mal became a full-time employee of the Edinburgh College of Art, both lecturing students and developing the Programme of Fashion. Since his appointment, the Programme of Fashion has diversified its content to include knitwear, womenswear, menswear, surface design for clothing, computer fashion imaging, accessories and tailoring.
Students and graduates of the Fashion Programme have won a variety of leading design awards, including the British Fashion Council Scholarship, Graduate Fashion Week Menswear Collection of the Year, David Band Textiles Award, the Karen Millen Portfolio of the Year Award and the British Fashion Council Nicole Fahri Competition.
Mal has also developed collaboration with the Scottish National Galleries and he has also created the Edinburgh College of Art and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Diversity Network, launched by Government Minister Lynne Featherston and fashion expert Caryn Franklin, in 2011. This project sees Edinburgh College of Art lead a new wave of thinking about diversity of body and beauty within fashion education, addressing customer self esteem and more 'emotionally considerate' design methods.