Hey Tom, nice coroflot stuff.
I think that I have also been on a similar path as yourself, been in touch with both N + P
I don’t want to put a damper on your ambition because I think that your work rocks and have loads of respect for Cov Car designers.
But here is some stuff that I have picked up on since graduating in 2006
The Sporting footwear industry in the UK is pretty much very limited to small design houses with talented (sometimes) ex N/P/A designers, very difficult to get work experience with but probably not impossible if you are willing to work for nothing and work long long hours.
Pentland, who (pretty) much have most of the UK footwear brands locked down. Lacoste/Boxfresh/TedBaker/ etc etc etc
They have a high turnover of staff so you could get into the design pool and work on some cool projects, worth a shot as they seem to like ID/car design types.
But very clicky, and its about who you know and an almost weird setup were micro/middle management have the say but still don’t make decisions. This is just my experience so please don’t take it for gospel
or the at the other end of the market which is mass market volume suppliers which are attached to people like JD / and other sports retailers alike. You are more likely to get a role as a junior designer working your 9-5 getting paid peanuts but learning quite a good grounding in the basics of footwear design + development. Alot of the folks I went to uni went this route.
I think it can be hard for people outside of a footwear course to get in to footwear roles as the requirements of understanding basic development + production of shoes is quite key. This is the case anyway in the UK because people are less willing to take a chance these days etc etc. So you are best either aiming at one or the other for work, N+P are obviously highly desired roles and require relocation etc etc Great jobs don’t get me wrong amazing development teams, access to the cream of design tec/dev rapid proto etc etc .
Route 3: is learning the basics, which for someone from a non footwear background is probably quite beneficial. It certainly wont be developing the next big thing with N+P but you will gain knowledge that you probably wont learn with N+P about spec’ing/sourcing/costing things which are much more real life to the advanced thinking of N+P. So for someone looking for a career in footwear is much more attractive, plus when you learn about this is can almost help you become a more creative designer in the long run.
On coming out of Uni I too was fascinated about working with the big players and tried & tried, its a double edge sword at the moment with the economic down turn, Companies can really choose to take the cream and still maybe give them a years work and then take the next cream and so on.
I have seen so many guys from the Crepole in Paris have been through both N+P+A and these guys work is by far some of the most creative well illustrated work I have ever seen. Only maybe a handful have made it in to fulltime roles with N+A, Erik A is one of them. He was working at C&F when I went for an interview and possible placement, the problem was that because C&F have a relationship with Crepole they can feed them talented design students for placements something that my Uni had no idea about. So it was all of my own back to try and locate these placements which are really limited, it was only by actually meeting the Global Head of design recruitment that I found out about C&F.
So I guess luck, timing has everything to do with it plus a massive amount of dedication and will to get to were you want to be, which is of course is very nice for the people of N+P+A to have an unstoppable amount of people who want to work for them.
Its funny that I have seen a real growth in the amount of people wanting to be footwear designers in the last 3 years. I think that if you are serious about footwear then you must try and get any role that’s going in the UK because the competition for those roles is so competitive that if you don’t take them and try to hold out for N+P to come along you could be waiting a long time.
Now please take all of this as only my perspective and I’m maybe sounding a little negative, but please see this as only someone who wants to give you my honest opinion on the current UK footwear scene.
The good thing like Shoenista said is that Coroflot is the HR for N+P+A to do search for talent on it, so you will be on their books.
All the best Tom, if you need to contact me for anything then I will be more than welcome to help you. Its a hard and challenging track but you get there if you really want it.
Please excuse any bad grammar/spelling etc