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.
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.