|The shoe that gave me inspiration in 2006 after seeing it in a Robb Report article - Gaziano & Girling|
(update: this post is in regards to those that wish to become their own shoe designer, i.e. with their own label, NOT working for someone else)
I remember when I decided that I wanted to become a shoe designer and have a shoe brand that either had my name or a name that I created associated with it. I remember thinking, ‘how the heck am I going to get there?’ All I had known prior to that, was learning how to start a company while at University (as part of the degree) and a bit of time in the retail shoe world, neither of which would give me the real tools to start my own shoe line, only theoretical knowledge to help me once I did actually have a company. Therefore, I went straight to Google and typed in what you see as the title to this post: ‘How to become a shoe designer. ‘ I read hours and hours of articles and things of that nature that gave it’s best attempt at explaining how to do this, but none of it really clicked for me and made me think, ‘okay that is how you do it.’ I therefore decided to create my own 5 year plan, deciding that I would learn everything that I could, and that the pieces of the puzzle would just fall together as I went along. As naïve as that was, it has seemed to magically occur for me that way, but has also made me realize that if I had a better plan of action from the get go, it might have been a smoother ride. Therefore I will share my experiences with all of you with the hope that I might be that shred of light (and/or guidance) for those of you aspiring to follow in the shoe designers footsteps.
|Gaziano & Girling Astair MTO - Courtesy of Leffot|
First and foremost, you don’t need a design degree to become a shoe designer. Like anything that you may aspire to be or have, passion, common sense knowledge, perseverance and a burning desire to succeed will be the most important traits that you need to get to where you want to go. It’s all I had….. The most important thing in the beginning is for you to have a plan, a plan that you can execute one step at a time. Write it down, memorize it and start figuring out how to accomplish the first step. You will notice that as you go along, each step will become slightly easier as your knowledge and networks within the industry will grow. Make sure this plan has a timeline, one that you stick to as best as you can. Obviously things will change and you have to be able to update that plan and roll with the changes, but that is the beauty of the journey and is what will make you stronger and more likely to succeed. Therefore, along with your plan, write a contingency plan or be able to rearrange your original plan to skip a step and go back to it at a further date.
|My all-time favorite brogue - Edward Green 'Brummell'|
For me there are three parts of the shoe industry that you need to tackle (knowledge-wise) before you even consider starting your shoe line: The Retail, The Creative and The Manufacturing. You don’t need to become an expert per se’ in all of these fields but at least be able to understand the basic fundamentals in which they all work. However, the more that you can learn about each field, the more likely you are to succeed. You should not be in a rush to start your shoe line. No one ever succeeds if they rush into something without being fully prepared for every little detail that might just smack them in the face. While my shoe line is about to finally be completed, it will have been 6 ½ years in the making since I decided to do it and looking back at it, I would not have done it any other way, as far as trying to create it earlier as I believe that I would have been severely underprepared. And to be honest, I am continuing to learn each day that I go along. It is a learning process that will never end, but the more that you are able to absorb, the better off you will be. Knowledge is your friend!
Next week I will divulge my knowledge of the retail side of things. Until then, if you are an aspiring shoemaker/designer do me a favour and write out your plan, consisting of your goals and the milestones that you want to accomplish. This is your first step and is the most important so don’t overlook it!
(pictures for people who don't want to be a shoe designer, and just come to look at shoes -- these are all models that have inspired me)