Shoe design is among the most attractive sub-categories of fashion design for would-be creatives. The shoe is an opportunity to do things that just aren’t possible elsewhere on the body. If you’re thinking of becoming a shoe designer, whether it’s a distant ambition or a more immediate goal, then you’ll need to prepare yourself.
While it might be possible to get started in shoe-design without any formal education, the fact is that, unlike many other artistic pursuits, a shoe needs to be able to serve a function – that of supporting feet. Moreover, it’s likely to be tested to near its limit.
That means you’ll need a formal grounding. In Australia, there’s no shortage of footwear design courses – but you might also consider heading abroad in search of the best opportunities.
With that said, a better way to demonstrate technical skill to would-be employers is to build an impressive portfolio to demonstrate that skill. You don’t need any formal education to do this. But you will need to put together something diverse to showcase a wide range of abilities. For this, you’ll need the right tools and equipment, and a clear workspace for sketching and prototyping. Silicone sealants are essential for creating water-tight joins, and sewing machinery, textiles and even 3d printers can all prove vital in bringing a concept to life quickly.
There are more people wishing to become shoe designers than there are work opportunities available. As such, you’ll need to set yourself apart from the crowd in order to secure an internship. You can do this through talent and charm, of course, but an often-neglected quality is persistence. Submit the CV, follow up, and, if necessary, go down to the building itself. As long as you know where the line is, you can be fairly sure that your persistence will be noted.
There are few industries quite as international as fashion. If you’re liaising with people who suddenly turn to one another and start communicating in a language you don’t understand, then you’ll find yourself suddenly excluded, and unable to place a foot in the door. You’ll also naturally develop a more rounded understanding of foreign markets, which can be crucial if you’re selling to them. At present, 21% of Australians speak a language other than English while at home. If that’s not you, then you might find that you’re at a disadvantage internationally.
While the idea of striking out on your own as a self-employed fashion designer can be immensely appealing, the fact is that nothing can quite prepare you for the industry than actually working in it. You are almost certain to make mistakes during your first few years, and if possible you want to be sure that you’re making them with other people’s money rather than your own.
Another aspect of shoe-design that’s often neglected is the actual process of making the shoes themselves. Designers come to view the actual manufacturing stage as something that happens in an entirely different universe, and that all of the problems inherent in manufacture have nothing to do with designers. This attitude is a mistake. By visiting the factory itself, you’ll develop the interpersonal skills you need to deal with the people who’ll actually make your shoes come to life. A sketch often isn’t enough – for best results, you’ll need to explain your vision and deal with problems as they arise. In some cases, you’ll need to put the case forcefully, and you’ll be better equipped to do that if you’re already comfortable with your surroundings.