Career advice sought

Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone here who has posted sincere advice and information. It’s great to know there are people like you all in the industry I want to get in to.

At present I’m studying custom shoemaking in Adelaide, Aust. in which everything is 100% handmade, we do the design, the pattern making and the construction ourselves (basically with a sewing machine and hand tools - it’s funny actually, I’ve seen a few posts about people wanting to get mock ups or pullovers made but not knowing where to go. I’ve got it down to about 3 or 4 days from initial design to trying on the finished shoe but that’s getting off point). While this is great and was really my only option for a shoe specific course in Aust. or back home in NZ I’m feelng more and more limited in not have any experience with computer design tools or even a formal design process which we don’t cover at all. i really want to move specifically into shoe design (as opposed to handmade) and so I’m planning to take a product design diploma at RMIT in Melbourne next year along with the 2nd year of the shoemaking course to get these skills.

My question is this - Am I kidding myself thinking I will be able to get employment in this industry as a designer having completed a two year handmade shoemaking course and a product design diploma? Coroflot is stacked with people who have far more impressive credentials than this. I’m not sure I can afford to commit 4 years to a degree when I’m already 25. Already I’m going to be older than most people applying for junior positions, is this going to count against me?

If anyone has any comments, advice or suggestions they would be very much appreciated.



where do you want to work? in athletics or fashion footwear? In united states or Europe or etc. ?

I think a handmade shoemaking class is great for you and the knowledge you will gain from actually making the shoes. Through all this I think it would be best to start developing a footwear portfolio. Maybe do a project every month, from inspiration to initial sketches/ down to final rendering (multiple views). From this you could begin to post your progressing work online and begin to get in contact with companies. But I think would be best to start developing some ideas now.

Also something to think about when designing your shoes is not to think as one shoe at a time, but think how for one project you could have 3-4 shoes and how they would all sit on the shelf and fit together.

Don’t let the age bother you, a company sees value you in hiring you they will. But at that age they are going to be expecting more from you in things outside of design, but also in leadership, communication skills, time management etc. so working on those would also help.

looking forward to seeing work



Thanks Mark

I’m not completely sure about which area I want to move into yet, probably leaning more towards fashion footwear but then again I wouldn’t want to limit myself in focusing on only one area. I can imagine athletic footwear requires a speciic skill set that I would miss out on if I focused solely on fashion and vica versa. As for where in the world, anywhere I could get work.

Thanks for the advice on the portfolio, I’ll look at getting one started. I’ve got photos of completed shoes but as most of the detailed design, in my course, is done in the patternmaking I’ve only got a few rough sketches for them. Is it worthwhile to work backwards and do more drawings or is having sketches and pics of the finished shoe enough?


No specific advice, but when I was studying my final year footwear degree there was a student a couple of years below me, who had worked at John Lobb, handmaking shoes, he was quite a bit older than most of the students. I went to his degree show, I think he was awarded a first. The degree taught him the creativite side of things, although we were taight shoemaking, he already knew it all to a much higher standard to the rest of the students.

You can’t study a degree in athletic footwear, even the footwear courses don’t really teach it in much depth. So these designers tend to come from more than one background, mainly ID but I’ve friends who studied footwear, fashion and even fine art who work in the trade.

At the end of the day, it’s your creativity that employers are looking for. I was a lousy machinist at college and probabl a bit slapdash when it came to making my samples, but this isn’t what clients are paying me for now, it’s my ideas on paper.

I think if you already understand shoemaking, (seems like the skills you are learning might not be bettered that much by more footwear courses, I reckon you’d learn much the same thing), I think you might want to concentrate on creativity. Sure a footwear course will teach this as well as the making side. Perhpas ask the colleges about their curriculums?

Good luck!