argggghhh MATERIALS!!!

jeez! there are sooooo many different types of leathers, meshes, linings, webbings, laces, and application processes from sooo many different suppliers…it is a bit overwhelming and i know we do not have nearly the materials library that some other places have…

i was wondering how some of the more “seasoned” (could that be a pun!?) footwear peoples approach the selection of material for shoes? do you usuallly have a material in mind before starting? or does it come to in the process? after the idea is concrete? how do you weigh the pro & cons of using a certain material over another?

materials, believe many times are slapped on afterwards, think having materials in mind from the beginning is good start. beginning of season there are material meetings to select things and or get you thinking of new materials. But much of the new materials are explored on your more expensive products. They can afford them.

I am still learning about materials an placement of them on the shoe to give it some depth/ value/ performance. allowing the mixture of materials to play off each other.

think some materials for pros an cons also deals with what the shoe is meant to do, is it to perform in or luxury/ lifestyle(over used word). because many materials can be x’d from the start if they dont withhold testing standards. But in many cases pros an cons comes down to cost.

We have a materials library here. Team is always working on updating it an showing us new things, but at the same time with the new there is still the last season materials available as well.


And if you don’t find what you want in your material library or supplier swatches then go shopping for shoes in a similar range to your design and see if you can find anything you like. If you find a shoe with a material you like then buy it and cut a piece and give to your material manager or supplier to see if they can source. Depending on your experience with materials it is sometimes easier to pick a material on a shoe rather than a swatch as you can see first hand how it looks stretched/curved/embossed etc.

Some info on leathers…


I am still learning about materials an placement of them on the shoe to give it some depth/ value/ performance. allowing the mixture of materials to play off each other.

this is what i am trying to understand, are materials and their placement primarily a style for cost thing and how does the function/performance influence how and where the certain materials are placed on a shoe? i have some idea from response from other designers at work just wanted some other perspectives…

I generally use whatever material is fit for the style of the shoe. It depends on who the customer is and what price point the shoe needs to be at.

If I wanted to go cheaper; I’d use 2nd layer pig for the counter lining instead of kid. etc. etc.

It just takes time and use of in order to understand different leathers and materials.

Also, the more cuts in the leather mean cheaper production.

The answers are -

Yes, and Yes, and depends :wink:

The subject of material placement, cost vs. performance vs. aesthetics and function is indeed a complication one. Too difficult I would say to generalize a one-size-fits-all formula for application and use.

Overall, the first things to determine that affects material selection I would say is the price point, category and market focus for the shoe. A top performance athletic (say basketball or running) shoe would be spec’d with different things in mind than a value/entry priced lifestyle shoe. Different brands also likely have different standards of quality, price, performance etc and may weight factors differently.

Ultimately in any application, there are trade-offs and compromises. Even in top performance footwear, there is an element of cost targeting that must be followed, and perhaps higher performance standards that affect aesthetic considerations. In lower priced footwear, performance may not be as much of an issue, but cost and aesthetics may be driving factors.

In general, the best way I could suggest to get a handle on all these things is to look at footwear on the market and look for the commonalities across brands, categories, designs, etc. If you look specific to one category (ie. BBall) you will likely find that certain materials are commonly used for certain parts (ie. mesh types for lining, abrasion resistant PUs for toecaps), and get some understanding on the factors involved.

The costing aspect of material application however is quite a bit more complicated (with microfibre vs. non-woven backing PUs, PVCS, a wide variety of suppliers, effect of volumes, etc.) and without in-industry experience is pretty much impossible to get much of a handle on. Basics of course you should again be able to pick up by seeing whats out there. You wont find too many 100% Aligator leather shoes at Walmart for 19.99… :slight_smile:

best advice of all…keep asking questions like these!


Coz I’m freelance I work with alot of different factories and customers, some are in Europe, some in China and I’ve noticed every factory has it’s own favoured suppliers (especially for leather). So, I tend to have to wait to til I go there and select from their swatch cards, or the agent (if I’m not dealing direct) will bring me a selection to choose from.

I also visit Anteprima, more for trends than for actual material supplies, although I might take the odd cutting. and if I go to China I often go to Sham sHui Po in Hong Kong first to see what the wholesalers there are offering.

I keep barely any swatch cards here, I tend to photgraph the cards (so I can remind myself what they were like) and leave them in the factory.

sometimes (all the time) i feel like i am asking either a dumb question or just the wrong question at work, whoever said their are no stupid questions would recant that statement after a couple days with me!

just alot too learn…thanks for your responses!

The best thing about this job is that you never stop learning. I’ts great when you find people in factories who are full of advice. I particularly remember a guy years ago in Spain whi took time to show me the factory leather store, so I could see exactly what a goat hide a kid hide, a side of calf etc looks like and educate me about the properties of each kind of hide.