Foorwear Industry: Aesthetical Differences UK Europe Asia US

Hi Guys,

One of the things I have been asked to do recently is to design a shoe for say the European market, and then create 3 different colourways to assess the Asian, US and UK markets. (the area which I was asked was trail/trekking boot footwear).

Basically I was wondering if any other designers have had any experience of this or know of any research reports/case studies that can point me in the right direction?

Is it common for companies to specify simple colourway changes to assess a whole market (I could see the advantages in terms of reduced tooling costs etc. but is it really that simple?)



where i work we do alot of international product, and we do dabble in what i would call ‘rugged casual’ but not full on trekking product. But my 2 cents is that we can do a simple colorway across the board if it is just tonal variations of say black brown or tan. when it comes down to shoes with more color pop there may be more opinions from each region as to what they would like to see.

My advice to you would be this:
-minimum leather usage is a concern for us. if you have one shoe for one market that only has red trim on the heel then you will have a hard time using enough of the leather to purchase the minimum amount. (you can still purchase but you will pay a fee, and that is just a waste of $$). So what you want to do is try and use that color somewhere else as well as a cost saving practice. So i would say this could be easily done with all the pattern pieces that are usually used on hiking shoes, to be able to pick 5 different colors and for one market use it as trim and maybe for another market use it as a base layer, so that you are using it in more than one place, yet making each shoe different.

Yes, different colorways for different regions are pretty common. It’s not always the case that different regions need different colorways but it does happen, depending on the category. Sometimes they are done inline (part of the planned collection), and sometimes they are created by buyers as SMUs (Special Make Ups).

Knowing what these regional differences are however, is not something I think, that you can easily research, or find out. It takes lots of travel, observation, getting to know buyers, consumers, etc…

For a category like Trail, I think, as the previous poster mentioned, I would expect there would be less differences as overall the category is pretty conservative and colors don’t change that much (pretty much everything in hiking boots is some combo of either brown, dk. green, black, tan, etc. + a pop of orange, yellow, red etc.)

Does your teacher expect to you do actual realistic colorways by region? Where do they want you to gather this info? How will the teacher possibly be able to judge if the colorways are correct?

…Perhaps (this is just a guess), they are looking for something more interpretive/artistic. Like, say a red and gold hiking boot for china, or a red/white/blue colorway for USA, etc.??

I worked for a UK license of a USA brand before it went in house. I found I’d have to recolour a large portion of the range and also edit it quite heavily - Uk could manage a 200 or 300 sku range - not a 3000 sku range.

What colours to use? If I were you I’d be trying tog et hold of the guys who are selling the stuff - it can take quite a lot of figuring out as not only is Europe different to the USA but every single country has its own foibles as well.

But I agree - out of all the categories, trail is not really going to vary that much from one reason ot the next.


I work designing outdoor footwear and we often split our colourways into regions. The colours depend a lot on the target age group and end use (trail running is brighter, slower activities are more conservative) but as a general rule:

UK - very conservative. Dark colours, very little contrast. Warm greys, browns, neutral greys andsome navy on boots.

South European (Italy, Spain…) Brighter colours. Yellows, tans (look at the brand La Sportiva)

Europe other. Sportier looking but using tones of grey to create a technical contrast aesthetic. Some brighter pop colours.

Asia - Do some mental stuff for Japan. Korea aim similar to Europe other.

US - not my area but i’m guessing there is a lot around tan and warm greys due to the nature of the market.