Getting into the shoe industry + Additional Schooling

I have 3 years of experience as a retail environments designer as well as a degree in Industrial Design. At this point, I’ve decided that I want to make the leap (no pun intended) to fashion footwear design. I have a decent amount of confidence in my skills and ideas, but I am finding companies not quite as receptive as I would like (okay, not receptive at all…) My first concern is that I am missing the 2-3 years of experience they all request.

At this point I am considering taking several night classes at FIT on shoe design/construction and working with leather/materials. As well as trying to get on with a company as more of an intern/apprentice while I’m in school. But before I make the commitment to do that I was hoping to get some feedback as to whether it would be a worthwhile investment.

Is what I would learn in those classes similar to what I would more quickly learn in the first 2 weeks of a full time design position?

I would hate to go through that extra schooling and still not be able to get an employers attention at the end of the day.

Any feedback on the situation or people’s experiences with FIT would be really helpful.



What kind of footwear do you see yourself being involved with?

Primarily fashion footwear. Styles such as Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Steve Madden, etc…


Where do you live? Have you considered Skechers? PM me.


Getting into the shoe design industry can be tough, but very rewarding. Like most industries, there’s always the chickenvs. egg issue of needing experience to get a job, but needing a job to get experience.

Im not familiar with the FIT courses, but not sure if they would really make a huge difference. Can’t hurt, however and shows you are serious about learning.

Best thing I’d suggest is to work on the portfolio (as i can see you are already doing), and try to get an internship. Many brands have intern positions, which are a great ay to learn and get into it.

Another thing to keep in mind is to be open to the kind of position you are looking for. While you may have lots of experience in other areas, and some skills are of course transferrable, it may not be possible to transfer directly to a similar job level in a different industry. Start out looking for entry level gigs, Jr. designer, design coordinator, jr. developer, etc. and use these job to get experience and connections. Moving up will be quick for someone like you with lots of good foundation skills, and i could see that you could potentially go from jr. to intermediate within a year at the right place. It’s also easier this way to sometimes go out for a position more jr. than you would like to get an interview and then when you show your stuff it may become apparent to the company that you are in fact more qualified, despite not having as much industry experience on paper.

Best of luck!


Wow, that’s great advice. I figured the experience translation wouldn’t be 1 to 1. So that isn’t a real shocker. I have come to accept the fact that in a way I am starting over, and I’m fairly okay with that. I’m confident I could prove my worth and move up quick once given a shot. And hearing you reiterate that helps as well.

I had my heart set on getting into the industry in New York, but I am having doubts, given there are so many designers at my experience level and higher that are willing to work for next to nothing for the chance at the experience of working their.

So now I’m open to any possibilities. Chicago, Toronto, LA, Seattle. Wherever there is good design and someone willing to let me participate and contribute to that.

As for FIT, I’ve heard good things about their fashion program. Nothing about these specific shoe classes, though they are credit classes. My hope would be it would give me a crash course in construction/materials/methods/techniques etc…

…the journey continues…

A HUGE thanks for the input.