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 . 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.
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.