Saturday, May 2, 2015

Designing Shoes

Designing Shoes

Designing shoes is a coveted career path for trendsetters and fashion designers alike. Famous shoe designers Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo are heralded by fashion magazines as skilled artisans who set footwear trends and create design masterpieces for the feet. If you are a skilled illustrator and innovative thinker, and have knowledge of industrial design, a career in shoemaking might be your ideal path to fashion superstardom.


    Long before shoes were a necessary style statement, designing shoes was a necessary method for humans to protect their feet. According to, sandals were the standard shoes worn by early civilizations to prevent feet from being cut by sharp rocks. For example, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia wore shoes made of leather that closely resembled moccasins. Wealthy ancient Egyptians were also the first people to design a wardrobe of shoes for various occasions.
    In 1629, a London shoemaker named Thomas Beard freed early settlers from moccasins and introduced shoemaking to the early American colonists. To advance the art of designing shoes, Jan Matzeliger created a shoe lasting machine that attached soles to shoes in less than one minute.


    Shoe designers work on a freelance basis for large fashion houses or for shoe conglomerates, or they create their own shoe empires independently. As footwear options vary beyond men's and women's footwear choices, shoe designers often specialize. Areas of shoe designing specialization include bridal, orthopedics, athletic, children, special occasion, Western, stilettos, sandals, plastics and dance.
    According to, the footwear industry employs the following types of shoe design workers: senior footwear designers, footwear designers, assistant footwear designers, footwear line builders and footwear technicians. Shoe designers make an average salary of $51,290 per year. Shoe designers with advanced expertise can earn a six-figure salary for their specialized knowledge. Freelance shoe designers work independently and do not receive the perks of stable employment and benefits.


    When considering a career as a full-time shoe designer, a mastery of shoe engineering, fashion, marketing and industrial design is required. The most notable schools for footwear design include the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, the Arpel School in Milan, Polimoda in Florence, Cordwainers College at the London College of Fashion and the Fashion Institute of Technology.


    To prepare for a career in shoe design, a degree in fine art, industrial design and visual art is often a prerequisite. If an aspiring shoe designer wants to create her own footwear line, knowledge of merchandising, marketing and business administration is necessary. Shoe designers must master trend analysis and have a superior knowledge of textiles and materials to execute innovative, yet wearable, designs for consumers.

Expert Insight

    Knowledge of computer modeling, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software and the ability to execute prototypes and sketches is a crucial skill for shoe designers. An independent shoe designer can produce their own footwear line by designing their own prototypes, finding a manufacturer to create their line, creating a web site to connect with future customers and contacting buyers in boutiques and online retailers to sell their shoes.

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