Freelance skate shoe designer..

I am hoping to get some advise from some designers that have worked with some skate shoe companies. I finished school and moved out to Los Angeles to try and get a full time job designing skate shoes. I have been working for a few companies out here freelance but I really want a full time position. I have interviewed with most of the companies out here and they all tell me they like my work but I need more experience… The whole catch 22 thing about how do I get more experience if no one actually gives me a job? Is experience with asian factories really that important or is that just a cookie cutter reason to not give me the job?

Check out my portfolio on coroflot-

Anything helps… Thanks!

stuff is pretty nice. I had a similar experience out of school and it was frustrating as all get out. It took me 6 months of freelance and I finally landed that first full time gig. If you are getting steady freelance though I think it will happen for you in time…

What type of work are you presenting? Like on you corefolio? or additional spec sheet type stuff? renderings? a few tooling drawings with cross sections and construction details go a long way as do a few renderings like this:

everybody likes a little TOMfoolery render.

Not sure on the skate industry though, maybe KE and Jbo can weigh in, I think they work for a skate company down under.

I hear you too.

anyway. the whole " We like your work but you don’t have the experience we are looking for" meme is basically true. Pretty rendering doesn’t necessarily equal good protfolio/experience in the eyes of a PLM or design director. They look for interest in the vibe/lifetsyle/ and ability to mesh with a certain mindset to create a good product that may not be earth shakingly different or cutting edge, but is more “saleable to the core customer”

in short possesing working knowledge of what “skaters will buy to skate in” versus “what skaters buy to look cool in”, and “what kids will buy to look like they skate in” and the ability to differntiate between and relate to the thee is huge.

how to get in? Find a lifestyle brand that relates to the industrey and don’t say you want to “Design skate shoes” becasue its nit just about the shoes anymore, its about the whole package that matters…

I noticed you have a deisgn for Era…did you freelance that project or just picked up the brand somewhere?

Are you signed up with any headhunters/agencies ? In my full time career (I work for myself now), every single role I ever had was through a headhunter. PM me for some agencies/advice.

Yo is right about showing specs in your protfolio, I show technical mold specs in mine, also last specs to prove that I can develop lasts, catalogues showing your product. Anything that shows you are capable in whatever skill you claim to have should go in there.

The China thing? Perhaps they need more proof that you’d be capeable once you get out there. I have to admit, I’ve seen designers ‘let go’ in the past because they couldn’t hack that bit of the job.

Rendering isn’t the be all and end all, creativity is.

I can’t do fancy photshop rendering to save my life (on my to do list), but I get calls from the likes of Nike, Adi etc.on a regular basis.

I think you will get there, though it just takes perseverance. One thing I’ve noticed is many of the skate brands are quite small with small pairage and budgets, so there may be a limit to the amount of people they are prepared to hire. One of my friends was freelancing for O’neill, you’d think they’d use full time staff, but no, (don’t know if thy do now).

Would you consider moving back to the UK? There are skate and surf brands on the South Coast. That could be a way in. Also in France, Iknow of an agency that places for roles like this. One of my ex-colleagues is at Animal working on their shoe range.

Yo, Supernaut, Shoenista,
Thanks for posting some comments. In interviews I tend to show a lot of finished rendered shoes, like my coroflot page. I also show about 5 projects from start to finish. Super rough ideation to lateral views and callouts to the finished views. I should put a page up on coroflot with some sketches…

Yo… Thanks! that rendering makes mine look amateur. Do you tend to do such detailed rendering for your work? Do you get a chance to do different types of shoes or are you locked into Running, Cross-Training ect…?

Supernaut… I try and explain a lot about this is a lifestyle I lead (skating and snowboarding) I should make that more obvious. I got hooked up with a guy in Santa Monica starting the brand Era and he asked me to do some logos and footwear designs. He is just starting so it has been a slow process.

Shoenista… I have not really had much contact with headhunters, if you have any emails or names that would be something I would like to look into. I have finished tech packs but I can’t really show them because the shoes aren’t out yet. I am loving LA but I would like to get back to the UK for sure…

Thanks for all your posts!

That’s not one of mine, it is a friends:
But I do try to bite off that style as much as possible. I think it helps the factory understand how it should look ideally.

Yo started as a freelancer, what are some of the other designers first jobs? Did you pop right into an entry level footwear position? Did you always know you wanted to get into shoes? I would love to hear some cool stories…Thanks for all your comments!