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

I would say an internship is your best opportunity to get your foot in the door. Contact brand companies as well as footwear license companies for internships. Sketch the hell out of footwear to have something to show in your folio.

Slowly. It’s always a catch-22 in any specific industry that you need experience to get a job, but need a job to get experience. That’s where the internships come in useful. As I’m sure you’ve also seen on the portfolios and forums here on core, footwear is a very competitive industry and the talent pool out there is vast. Build your portfolio, sketch a ton, and try to learn as much as you can about production and construction (your course in London and your project sound like a good start).

I’d also suggest it can be very helpful to post your portfolio here for critique… it’s sometimes difficult to evaluate your own work and what your strengths and weaknesses are, and the better you are aware of where you stand, the better chance you have to improve and get where you want to be.

Best of luck!


This sounds similar to my experience, sans the masters. I’m in NYC, attended school there as well and studied furniture design. I didn’t see much of a future there so I poured all my effort into rendering my designs and polishing up on the computer skillz… this landed me several different exhibition design internships all around the city. All the while, building my portfolio, drawings, renderings, conceptual sketches, prototypes (I usually made in my free time etc.)

I was looking for a change of pace and decided to apply for jobs where I had zero experience and in different fields (I just wasn’t happy). Footwear was one of them, it was evident I had the technical capabilities and design sense if you looked at my portfolio and was hired for a design/development co. right away (took a cut in pay but a year later I got that back).

What I’m saying is that if you’re a good designer and you really pour your all into it, it’s yours for the taking. Sometimes you have to make sacrafices intially but patience is the starting point. You can go back to school and spend two of three more years and spend loads of money or you can get real serious and grind it out. I mean lets face it, school will always be there (someone will always be waiting to take your money) but if you know of a job out there, go for it.

It’s been years (5-6) since I first got into shoes (now I’m designing and developing). I submitted a portfolio with chairs, turntables and exhibits I had worked on; good design is good design and an employer with a good eye can spot it.

Good luck and get that job!

thank you!
You’ve all been a real help, thank you so much, and its so good to know that there are others out there :smiley:

Also, i did pretty much every type of graphic design there is before getting into footwear, so dont be shy about doing other kinds of design work to get your career on the road.

Also designing for apparel is very helpful, not in the least because it gets you in touch with companies, brands etc.

Get into it and dont look back! :sunglasses:

I think you could borrow money to the british government if you´re student.
Everybody do that.

You´ll give them back once you finish your studies and get a job.

Try to get information about that…it´s quite interesting.

Another fact is what difficult is to get a footwear design in London,I´ve spent 2years there,having lots of interviews with recruiters,international companies,sending them designs and almost getting depressed.

hope it helps.

with the government funding, you can do that for your first degree (so I borrowed for my BDes Product Design) so a student loan, but this funding is not available for your masters (postgraduate) degree, you have to go to your bank i think.

Thank you so much for the advice though, and I hope you get a job soon!
The recession surely cant last forvever :wink:

yup,im designing for an italian company,anyway life´s better outside england.

and what about short courses programs?

I did two at the London College of fashion&design,they were really usefull to me,and of course cheapers.

best of luck.

Can you post links or mention the London College courses you took?

I’m trying to break into footwear design, with a specialty in boots and pull-on shoes. I’ve a BFA and numerous digital design projects for publishing, and studied with actual custom makers. I’m a good custom fitter.

Here in the greater NYC area… and open to manufacturing/product development as well as design.