Getting into the Footwear Industry

I am a soon-to-be Product Design graduate, yet I have always had a burning passion for footwear. I was encouraged to do my current degree course as it offered variety and opened up a lot of different avenues, although right now I’m feeling a little cheated.

I’d love to get into the footwear industry, and have focused my Final Major Project on the design and manufacture of some discursive shoes, even making contacts in China in order to do so. However, when trying to get a job in this area, I am told I need specific footwear experience, even to the point where I was told there wasn’t really a hope of me getting onto a Footwear Masters course without a distinct prior knowledge.

I am therefore going down to london (i am based in edinburgh) to do an intensive shoe-making course with Paul Thomas. This is in preparation of perhaps going for a Masters at Cordwainers, but does anyone know if there is an alternative route? (the masters is going to be hugely costly) Is there anywhere anyone knows of that give internships in footwear?

How do I get started in footwear?

I’d really appreciate your comments, thank you :smiley:

Jili Allen l creative l

If it’s fashion footwear and you are in the UK, then yes, they do generally require you to have a footwear qualification.

This is because you will probably be expected to be able to go straight into a factory and understand how to amend patterns, tape up a last and draw on it etc. If you haven’t studied footwear then you’ll struggle with this, plus you won’t understand enough in order to design shoes that are a/ manufacturable and b/ cost effective to make. I spent a whole year of my degree learning to pattern cut and make, it was like an apprenticeship. I know how to grade into sizes and width fittings. We studied leather. We studied biomechanics of feet. All very useful stuff, especially when the factory you work with in China has new pattern cutters and you need to step in there and help them figure something out.

I know a couple of people who have done the masters and they both had extensive footwear experience prior to that and knew how to pattern cut and handmake shoes.

Also as the trade is so competitive and there are already a couple of dozen graduates with footwear specific degrees every year, they can pick and choose therefore it makes sense to employers to take the ones who can make shoes as it’s whole lot less training and investment for them.

There are internships but seeing as Cordwainers already offer a footwear degree where one year of that is in industry (and I get the impression they struggle to get placements for each student), you may find that they may be more willing to place a footwear student.

In countries where there aren’t any or many specific footwear courses, then it’s a different story and a fashion or ID degree (depending on the type of company) plus on-the-job training is what is expected.

Have you considered say a six month course at somewhere such as ARS Sutoria in Italy? You would get all the technical training that you need.

An American friend (designing for Diesel footwear), has a fashion degree, but studied at ARS Sutoria following this, in order to get some specific footwear training. I worked with her and she was very technically competent.

Have you thought of contacting Mike Corbett?

that course looks fantastic! Thnks for the tip, I’ve just emailed enquiring about prices, accomodation, etc. On a personal level, as well as a proffesional one, I would like to know more about shoe construction anyway, hence the course in London. So thank you so much for letting me know! :smiley: Do you know of anywhere that provides internships? There’s a new balance factory near my family home, so I’m even thinking about helping out in the factory there to gain some first hand experience, what do you think?

Yes I would definately contact them, but I’m certain that all they do is the cementing in that factory - as in they stick finished uppers (that come from China) onto finished outsoles that come from China. So not really that much shoemaking!

I do know of a proper shoe factory near you, but send me an email via my website for the details.