Fashion Footwear - Working Methods

Hello Everyone,

I need some help in broaden my perspective regarding working methods and schedules in the shoe-biz:
For a few month now I’ve been working for a fashion brand (clothing) which had broaden its business to footwear about a year ago.
My experience unable me to define if the working methods and way of getting synchronized with the working methods in the clothing discipline are reasonable or not but I do have the feeling that something doesn’t work right when you completely adopt the methods used for clothing production to the footwear production.
To make my question more practical I can say that what I really need is an idea about the Gant Chart or a sort of Flow Diagram of footwear development & production process and for those of you who work in a similar constellation - how do you synchronize the footwear with the clothing and are the timetables indeed the same for both?

Any further input regarding this issue would be helpful.

Thanks in advance,

Hi Tamara, I’ve had to do this for two big fashion brands. It is very tricky. You will have to start your development timetable well before the clothing, otherwise you won’t be ready to launch at the same time. The analogy I use to explain the longer leadtimes to clothing people is that making shoes is like having to carve a tailors dummy first before you can start anything else! There is so much tooling up!

A friend sells for an Italian jeans brand. He says they are never ready with the full footwear range to launch at Bread and Butter (first show of the season), so you can see it’s a common problem.

You need to write a critical path. Write your milestones working backwards from the launch, but your time allowed for each stage of development will probably be a few weeks longer than theirs - I try to allow five weeks per round of sampling if possible, but if your factory is good you might be able get away with four.

Milestones I would usually use (working backwards from launch) I didn’t add manufacturing to this timetable as this is dependant on where your factory is, so many other variables, you need to ask the factory!

Sales Meeting 1 day
Recieve and sort samples 3-4 days
Sales samples making 5-6 weeks (depending on how may pairs they need)
Final sample meeting 1 day
Recieve and sort samples 3-4 days
Final Samples making 5 weeks
Second trip to factory 1 to 2 weeks, make revisions order colourways.
Sample making 5 weeks (one colour per style only)
First trip to factory - choose or develop kits, materials research, put first samples into work 1 to 2 weeks depending on size of range
Revise and finalise inital ideas 1 to 2 weeks
Write range plan 2 days
First design meeting 1 day
Research and initial ideas 1 to 2 weeks

Ive just written this out roughly, I hope it makes sense!

You can do it in alot less time than this - I’ve just done a whole critical path for just ten weeks for a range of 40 shoes, but it was a nightmare, I had to run around Hong Kong developing much of the hardware myself, the tannery was often short of the leather in the colours I wanted (don’t forget tanning and dying leather to order takes about three weeks), and I had to compromise and go along with mainly existing kits to get it done in time. I also know the factory well, I wouldn’t take the risk if it was a new one!

When you start development, concentrate on kits, i.e. the lasts and heels you want to develop. You are going to have to get this initial stuff done before the clothing peeps have even started doing thier trends (probably!) You can at least write the range plan taking into account the categories you know they will need and they might have a carry forward type product they put in every season that you need to develop a shoe to go with.

You will need to explain ‘why’ to the clothing people. I found when I worked for a famous high street brand, it would really rattle the cages of the clothing design team, they didn’t like us doing our mood boards and starting earlier than they did, but we had no choice if we were to launch on time.

The biggest difficulty of all is if they are developing fabric that you want to use. All I can suggest is that you persuade them to develop just one fabric far earlier than their usual leadtime, so you can use it. I have also sometimes developed fabric myself and then persuaded the bag and clothing licenses to use it so at least we get something matching!
You may also find you have to develop your own fabric anyway due to suitability of material for making shoes.