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Let me first start of by saying that I have no credentials in shoe design and/or company branding. The closest that I have to design skills was drawing Wolverine and Ninja Turtles when I was a young boy. As far as company branding goes, well I did have a Minor (at University) in Marketing, but I dont really remember much about any of it if I am going to be honest. So, as you can see, there is not much of a creative background that I bring to the table. What I will say has always been one of my strengths, which I believe has helped me in my creativity, was the fact that I was always extremely observant, TO EVERYTHING! Its easy to say that shoe looks better than that other one, but its hard to give a technical explanation as to why that is. Through over persistent observation, however, you are able to start distinguishing the minute details in pattern/last design that make one shoe more attractive then another. This is what you will need to be able to do when creating shoes that will differentiate themselves from all the rest.
Shoes patterns are made from a side point of view, i.e. they are created on the outside half of the left shoe, graded to then create the inside half of the left shoe and then mirrored to create the right shoe (at least for Ready To Wear shoes, bespoke is another story.) That being, a good pattern maker should be able to take a simple drawing (of the outside of the left shoe, as shown) to then create the pattern to turn into a 3-Dimensional product. Obviously the better that you can proportion the lines of your drawing to an actual shoe, the easier it will be for the pattern maker to create the precise pattern that you want. This is all it takes to work with a shoe factory, as proved by what I have done. Therefore, to be your own shoe designer, you dont need a degree in anything besides a bit of common sense, some knowledge of shoes and the ability to sketch a half-decent picture of a shoe. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise.
Granted, if you were to study pattern making, it would help you to create EXACTLY what you want, as sometimes, it can be hard to express to another person (i.e. the pattern maker) exactly what you were picturing in your head. This would definitely be an advantage, but not a absolute must. But then again, once the initial pattern is created from your sketch designs, and you are able to see it in 3-D, it is much easier to then adjust the lines/details by directly drawing on the shoe and giving it back to the pattern maker. This is precisely what has happened to me, and is the reason why it has taken over a year to create my line. But dont be discouraged by this, as creating something is never going to be easy or quick and its best to take your time and make the product the best that you can instead of releasing it when you are not 1000% satisfied with it!
Stay tuned next week as I talk about branding and creating your lasts for your RTW collection.

10 thoughts on “How To Become A Shoe Designer Part 3.1: The Creative Side — Shoe Designing”

  1. Good piece Justin, and an important point: if your ideas are sound and you can communicate them, you don’t need to be a trained designer or able to use CAD software expertly, to get your ideas made real.

    That’s reassuring to know, and quite correct in my experience from other sectors. The more you write about this stuff, the more I think I’d like my own shoe line though! I think you might be ruining my life…

    On a side note, we’ve all see your saddle and loafer before on your designs page. But that balmoral, bar a subtly un-mentioned appearance in another post (about ties I think?, is exposed here for the first time in all its glory.

    I mentioned that your loafer is much nicer now it’s finished, and that the balmoral looked good. Now that I can see the latter whole, it’s really quite interesting: most boots I’ve seen with fabric in them have a leather collar and facing still, and just a fabric quarter, or vamp with a leather wing tip. What you’ve done here is make something much lighter, yet casual. I really like it and I’d like to order a pair!

  2. A quick thought on these; constructive criticism if you will: the leather/suede version of this has no issue, but I think for the denim or any other fabric design you might have, blind eyelets is a mistake.

    Because fabric is woven, the edges are going to fray up on the outside, as opposed to leather just wearing a tiny bit. Might I suggest a slight variation of full eyelets on the next run of fabric models? I think it would also extend the fun “jeans” reference of these, mimicking the studs in a pair of denims. Maybe even make the eyelets brass? Just a thought.

  3. Owen B – Glad to hear that you are really liking some of my shoes….that means a lot!

    Alex B – Lol….ruining your current life so that you can begin your next one as a shoe designer!

    Glad to hear that you like the boots too! They are one of my favorite designs….yea, I don’t like putting a leather facing on a boot if they upper bit is not leather….I prefer to not have too much going on…leather on the bottom/fabric on the top and that’s it….

    When I had them make these for me to see how they would come out, I completely spaced out and forgot to added eyelets, as we all know that jean material does fray…simple oversight and the real models will have them…but not in brass nor copper, as I hate those colors…more metal/metallic colorings….


  4. Hi Justin,
    all of your drawings and shoe collection are amazing. I just recently into dress shoe and wanting to own my own design after reading your article :p
    I’ve been wondering where you get your material reference, like what you did in most of the drawings above. wish you all the best for your future business.. Cheers

    1. Dear Ap, thanks for your kind words, I do appreciate that!! Not sure however about what you mean when you say “Material Reference?” What are referring to?

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