footwear design crisis, don't make me laugh, there's no jobs


i was reading the article posted from drapers a few weeks ago indictating a uk footwear designer shortage, its wrong, i live in the UK have been a designer 4 years now and was the winner of the 2003 graduate fashion week for accessories design. i have been looking for a permanent position since Jan 2006 and there is nothing here, well that’s a lie, pentland sometimes hire (boxfresh, ted baker etc) but they generally will only take designers who have only worked with the same company since graduation, they don’t like any time off travelling etc and the plcae is basically a call center for footwear designers strickly 9-5 no music very corporate.

there are a few jobs in the North but the fashion capital is London so why are there no jobs??? how hard will it be for people like hotmix and other’s graduating this year???

if you have no factory experience they won’t touch you ok they may but exspect ridiculous wages of around 15K which is a joke.

the problem is with uk footwear is that men’s wear is very plane and not european which is what we are so we should act like it.

it’s very difficult to get your espenses for interviews in the UK but i was flow to the states by nike all expenses and have had other experiences with companies outside the uk which are very interested in uk designers.

the one major factor is footwear designers are a rare breed, product designers have stepped up and are killing the role, they have there place, nike etc are not about fashion so that’s fine but generally it was always footwear designers that did the design and product developers solved the problems and that’s how it should be now.!!! :imp:

With that complaining attitude theres no wonder you’re not getting anywhere.

There is a shortage - for people with the right attitude and a commercial eye. As a freelancer I’ve been overwhelmed by enquiries recently - the phone has gone mad- nearly every project is a result of the client being unable to find the right full timer.

Yes, Pentland is very corporate, but I worked there for many years and it was enjoyable, yes the starting pay is very low (I was on minimum legal wage when I started in the shoe trade), but other benefits are good, you will be well trained,learn lots and it always looks great on your c.v. when you leave. You have to be able to accept that the big money doesn’t come until you get volume sales. As a junior you actually lose your company money as they train and invest in you - THATS why your starting salary is low.

As for time off to travel - funnily enough the only person I know who did this was a Pentland designer, but she had been working there for four years. Put it this way - if you’d just recruited a new designer, would you be impressed if straight away they wanted to go travelling? Keep this under your hat and wait, if you give someone a few years service, they’ll probably say yes, don’t announce it at the interview, or to agencies, BIG MISTAKE! It doesn’t show commitment.

Most footwear companies are not and never were in London. Don’t forget that the historical centre of the trade is Northampton - that’s footwear, not fashion :wink: . Plus many of the big customers and chains have their HQ outside of London, it suits brands to be close to where their customers are based. I know of at least 4 companies off the top of my head that are outside London that need designers but they can’t fill the vacancies because everyone wants to live in London.

It is true that the first job is the hardest to get. You cannot be fussy about location, wage etc. in this first job. You will have to put up with being skint for a while,I’m afraid. It doesn’t matter who this job is with. You have to get on the ladder. Once you’ve been in job for two years you’ll have enough experience to look elsewhere for something better. There is no point in trying to go for jobs that ask for experience you don’t have - you should be looking for design assistant / junior designer jobs and be prepared to do the photocopying and make the tea. That’s how we all started.

As for trying to force the great British public to wear something they don’t want to (you mentioned mens footwear in the uk being very plain), it’s like pushing water uphill, the average British male is very conservative. It’s a cultural thing, not likely to change. It is a challenge to design for this customer and if you manage to crack it, you will be very well rewarded indeed.

The business is about MONEY and you need to learn to be commercial. If you’re not happy with this, start your own brand or go be a fine artist or something. If you want to learn to be commercial, spend a lot of time on the high street, look at peoples feet - look at everyone, not just the fashionistas.

You can’t be a snob in this game, it doesn’t matter how many prizes you won at college, once you graduate you have to start at the bottom and prove yourself.

You hav to eat humble pie whe you start your first job,doesn’t matter how many people tell you you are a superstar at college when you graduate, once you start your first job, it doesn’t take long for it to dawn on you how little you know.

Finally,good luck!

Hate to be harsh, but when I was a student, it was exactly the same complaints from students I knew then. It hasn’t changed out there, but if you have a determined attitude and an open mind I can’t see why you won’t go far.


Thanks for the reply but i think your being a bit harsh with it.

i work for a supplyier now and also freelanced for 4 years with no problems, the point i was making is the review was stating they is a lack of designers in the uk which is bull.

yes the footwear industry was in the north but now its in china and no one wants to live in the north so move the design offices to london.

i know many designers who went and left pentland its a call center to designers.

the point is there are loads of designers out there but its easyier to get a full time position outsdie the uk, i have been to interviews outside the uk with umbro, diesel and nike all in the last 4 weeks oh and i have one on the cards for manchester but they will open an office in london.

oh and the travelling thing is what design is all about, footwear designers are the same as fashion designers we are told to get out and do what we feel, watching the terrace lads on a friday night is the design ambitions of product designer not people who graduated with a fashion footwear degree.

good luck to all the new footwear designers graduating my advice get a recruitment consultant such as HTNK they are based in amsterdamn and are really helpfull, if any needs there address i will be happy to pass it on to you.


That is an excellent post chock full of truisms from a real professional who has been there, not to be ignored in any shape or form.

Cool, but did you get offers?

I’m sure you are a talented guy, but it sounds like you need to eat some humble pie, and no one wants a poisonous attitude on their team, it infects the whole studio… I only know this because I was once a cocky punk who thought he knew it all too… now I’m a cocky SOB that thinks he knows it all, but I have learned to strategically bite my tongue… sometimes…

no but things are moving well. your all right son, keep on smilling thats all you can do.

be good


let’s put it in this way…
11 years of experience… designed many products you’ve surely noticed,
form snowboard boots to soccer boots… and i moved to holland to work for the brand i always wanted to work (NIKE)
do you think i love holland that much?

shoenista got the point. maybe from your perspective his tone was not the most gentle… but don’t get distracted by that.

yes there’re many designers, not only in uk but how many of those can draw?
how many of those can generate business.
quantity is not linked to quality…
we’re looking for 2 designers and can’t find good candidates, how about that?

keep it easy,

Nike hey, lisa oliver fly me to the states about 4 weeks ago, she is trying to arrange for me to go to amsterdamn for the metro role which i am quite keen on but she is waiting for some one to be there or something, what’s it like??? i am flying out to the damn on the 23rd for an interview with Umbro and it would have been nice to sort something with nike as i return on the 24th June.

anyway my work examples are below there’s two more portfolios on coroflot as well.

Nice to speak to you man thanks agaion


So why are you moaning then? :laughing:

I’ve averaged one phone call enquiry a day recently, it is normally one phone call a month!. I can never ever remember this much work floating around, which is why the Drapers Record article is true. BUT and it’s a big but, they don’t want anyone who needs their hand holding IYSWIM, they want you to be able to go in with minimal briefing and design product that sells for them. Everyone I bump into at shows complains that there aren’t enough commercial designers (as in those who can generate revenue).

well good for you, freelance is always available i’ve done it for 4 years so i know the work is there but i don’t think you are giving me any credit.

its taken along time for me to get interviews for the positions with nike, diesel and Umbro but i’m not out of the woods yet and i do have experience but the point i was making is the article says there are no designers and the fact is they only want designers with 10 year + experience and when your starting out some one has to give these designers a break and the only people to do that are generally out side the uk and that is a shame.


hello all

PATIENCE is all I can say

Shoenista , thank u for the main message written above, this is truly what all the beginners should pay attention to, once they decide to integrate this field.

I confirm the hard path we are all going through to welcome in our department any new figure.

this situation doesn’t only consider the junior or designer I categories, it embraces all levels.

some designers are promoted senior too early, some are given responsabilities higher than their competency…sign of crisis…

we at Adidas Innovation, are looking for experienced apparel designer and a senior footwear and accessories designer located in Germany since last february… only one candidate answered for the apparel position, no established senior footwear designer applied from outside the company so far.

signs of crisis yes i confirm that facts.

a good day all

I would also tend to agree with the position mentioned by some of the lack of experienced footwear designers. In my experience there is certainly not a condition of too few jobs, but too few solid designers.

What may be true, is rather a large amount of inexperienced designers with the correct skills, for the jobs available. This makes it seem that there are in fact lots of designers, but too few jobs.

I get on average maybe 5 emails from aspiring designers a week. Very few have the experience or skills necessary.

Footwear design is for sure a very specific and technical field. Of course there is the issue of needing experience to get experience, but as someone already mentioned I think there also exists a mentality of young designers that they can get into a full design position without “doing their time” as an assistant, learning the process, understanding how factories work, etc.

In general, I would for sure encourage people looking to get into footwear design to really make an effort to understand the industry and the technical aspects required…its more than drawing pretty pictures! Cut up shoes, look at the reality of retail economics, know your manufacturing. There are a lot of resources around on the net (including my own blog- shameless plug!)… check them out!

best of luck,


I think some of this frustration is just net tone? Things always come off harsher in a message forum for some reason.

Anyhoo, Scott, I would like to check out your work but the link won’t work, can you repost? make sure you are logged out of coroflot when you copy the url, or just im me the name to look for.

Good luck with the job hunt. I understand your frustration (It took me a bit to get that first ful time spot and stop freelancing too) just be careful how you publicly word those frustrations so you manage your reputation OK?

… oh and I would also like to plug rK’s site, it’s an awesome resource of information, bit of a treasure trove really…

Yo, copy and past that “job seeker, etc” part after the first part of the url he indicated, that will take you to the site.

Are you sure about that? TBH I’ve never heard of anyone asking for that amount of experience for a design role. Even when I was a design manager (my last FT role before I started my consultancy business), they only required about 5 years experience.

If I was you, I’d contact some agencies, have a bit of a heart to heart, find out what they really think. Many of them are pretty frank and will not mince their words if they think your portfolio or interview technique isn’t up to scratch.

I agree it is a shame that not many companies support new talent, but some do. One of them is Pentland, but I think we’ve already agreed the culture there is not for you.

hmmm, the projects in the folio are a bit conservative, the designs just might be subtle, but from these sketches I am struggling to see what is new about these designs

… I’d like to see you push beyond what is in the marketplace at the moment or evolving it. Maybe you have more work? I’d also fix or get rid of the photoshop fill on the second slide.

Just my 2¢, for what it is worth.

Hi scot28,

It would be good to see some of the other designs you have for all those brands on your CV and not just the Henri Llyod linework on your Coroflot.


ultimately, i think the state of the indsutry and jobs at large can be summed up by “there are the right jobs for the right designers”.

Not to make any sort of personal comments, but I would recommend, scot28, looking at some of the other footwear designers portfolios around (core and elsewhere), and comparing some of the projects, renderings, etc. to see how you stack up before making broad statements about the industry.

To help, I think you do show a good understanding of commercial needs and the basics of footwear construction/design in your portoflio, but as Yo said, you should also represent some more innovative, forward designs in your work. As well, I would recommend more visually interesting rendings and design process stuff. Its difficult for any potential employer to judge your skill/knowlege based only on a few line drawing.

cheers, and best of luck to all looking to be a part of this very exciting industry!


in some areas of footwear, and in alot of retail sectors, there is a certain amount of recession going on, so where once maybe things were booming for a while there…
people who have been in the business for a long time on here might be able to comment on how the business has changed in recent years?
i know alot of brands and retail areas were quite bloated in terms of staff and spending 5 years ago, & these days things seem different.
im probably wrong. but itd be interesting to hear what people on here think about change in the footwear biz / how it will continue to change.