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How To Become A Shoe Designer

(this will be ongoing until the end of it says “finished”)

Part 1:

I remember when I decided that I wanted to become a shoe designer and have a shoe brand that either had my name or a name that I created associated with it. I remember thinking, ?how the heck am I going to get there????All I had known prior to that, was learning how to start a company while at University (as part of the degree) and a bit of time in the retail shoe world, neither of which would give me the real tools to start my own shoe line, only theoretical knowledge to help me once I did actually have a company. Therefore, I went straight to Google and typed in what you see as the title to this post: ?How to become a shoe designer. ? I read hours and hours of articles and things of that nature that gave it?s best attempt at explaining how to do this, but none of it really clicked for me and made me think, ?okay that is how you do it.? I therefore decided to create my own 5 year plan, deciding that I would learn everything that I could, and that the pieces of the puzzle would just fall together as I went along. As naïve as that was, it has seemed to magically occur for me that way, but has also made me realize that if I had a better plan of action from the get go, it might have been a smoother ride. Therefore I will share my experiences with all of you with the hope that I might be that shred of light (and/or guidance) for those of you aspiring to follow in the shoe designers footsteps.

First and foremost, you don?t need a design degree to become a shoe designer. Like anything that you may aspire to be or have, passion, common sense knowledge, perseverance and a burning desire to succeed will be the most important traits that you need to get to where you want to go. It?s all I had?.. The most important thing in the beginning is for you to have a plan, a plan that you can execute one step at a time. Write it down, memorize it and start figuring out how to accomplish the first step. You will notice that as you go along, each step will become slightly easier as your knowledge and networks within the industry will grow. Make sure this plan has a timeline, one that you stick to as best as you can. Obviously things will change and you have to be able to update that plan and roll with the changes, but that is the beauty of the journey and is what will make you stronger and more likely to succeed. Therefore, along with your plan, write a contingency plan or be able to rearrange your original plan to skip a step and go back to it at a further date.

For me there are three parts of the shoe industry that you need to tackle (knowledge-wise) before you even consider starting your shoe line: The Retail, The Creative and The Manufacturing. You don?t need to become an expert per se? in all of these fields but at least be able to understand the basic fundamentals in which they all work. However, the more that you can learn about each field, the more likely you are to succeed. You should not be in a rush to start your shoe line. No one ever succeeds if they rush into something without being fully prepared for every little detail that might just smack them in the face. While my shoe line is about to finally be completed, it will have been 6 ? years in the making since I decided to do it and looking back at it, I would not have done it any other way, as far as trying to create it earlier as I believe that I would have been severely underprepared. And to be honest, I am continuing to learn each day that I go along. It is a learning process that will never end, but the more that you are able to absorb, the better off you will be. Knowledge is your friend!

Next week I will divulge my knowledge of the retail side of things. Until then, if you are an aspiring shoemaker/designer do me a favour and write out your plan, consisting of your goals and the milestones that you want to accomplish. This is your first step and is the most important so don?t overlook it!

Part 2: The Retail Experience

When I graduated university I was working for Nordstrom, at the flagship store in Downtown Seattle, where all of the buyers and corporate offices were located. As part of my 5 year plan, I told myself that despite having a bachelor?s degree in Entrepreneurship, I would stay working in the retail industry serving others, so that I could do two things: 1. Comprehend the minds of consumers and why they purchase & 2. Network with and understand why buyers (of big department stores) do what they do. I decided that if I was going to ever have a shoe line and wanted to wholesale my shoes to a store like Nordstrom, I needed to know how to look good not only in the eyes of the buyers but also understand why one brand will sell better than another as well as why customers will buy one shoe over another. I decided to do this for two years as this was pertinent to the success of spreading my future brand across the world.

The absolute most important thing that I learned about the retail side of the business is that if you are a new brand, it doesn?t matter how cool you are or how good your shoes are, but how the salespeople of the department view your brand. That being, if the sales team is behind your brand, you will be successful and if they are not, well?. you better pray that your shoes are so good and in demand that it does not matter. While working there, it was all about what I sold, AND not what the customer asked for. If they asked for X, but I wanted to sell Y, you better believe that I would give them my best reason for them to buy Y. Now, don?t get me wrong, I was not one of those that would lie to make a sale, but if the opportunity presented itself for me to sell a ?like? product, and I happened to like one brand (personally) over the other, I would do my best to make sure the customer left with the brand that I wanted them to. The salesman holds power over the customers, and the sales rep? (of the shoe brands) that gains respect over the salesmen, holds the power to get his/her shoes sold!

For example, often we would have what are called ?Trunk Shows?, where the sales rep of a certain company will come to the department in the hopes to present some new models or just be there to assist with anything relating to their brand. On these days, certain companies would offer incentives to the salespeople, such as $5-$10 per pair sold of their brand or maybe give a free pair if someone sells a certain number within that day. This would lead to EVERY single salesperson trying to sell their shoes, and sometimes we would do so well that in one day we would sell as many pairs of that companies? shoes as we normally would have in one week. That?s the power of a salesman, and something not to be forgotten!

The second thing I learned about were the buyers, but this I must say, while I even had a close friend that was a buyer, is still something that I ponder about?.in terms of their decision making. First and foremost, you have to understand the needs of the shop, and think about how you will fulfil those needs. For example, if a shop has shoes that sell at ?200, ?400, and??500 yet your brand is going to be at the ?300, you will be more likely to appeal to that shop than if your shoes were at the ?400 price-point that is already covered. That was more of an example of a small shop however, where more than likely the ?buyer? is the owner of the shop. But if you want to get into a place like Nordstrom (or any major department store), you are going to have to fulfil a whole lot of more demanding needs like: strong brand recognition, proven track records at other stores, customer demand, and a strong marketing plan. But you will still have to fulfil the more trivial things like being a brand that brings something new to the table, being able to differentiate your brand from the next, and of course, come in at a price-point that is not only sellable, but profitable! While I am sure that there are more things that you need to do to appeal to the buyers, these are the ones that you should think about now, and more importantly how you are going to fulfil them??stay tuned next week for The Creative side of starting your own line.

Part 3.1:?Shoe Designing

How To Become A Shoe Designer
How To Become A Shoe Designer

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 don?t 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! It?s easy to say ?that shoe looks better than that other one,? but it?s 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.

How To Become A Shoe Designer
How To Become A Shoe Designer

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 don?t 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. Don?t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How To Become A Shoe Designer
How To Become A Shoe Designer

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 don?t be discouraged by this, as creating something is never going to be easy or quick and it?s 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.

Part 3.2: Creating Your Lasts

How To Become A Shoe Designer

Finalized product will have metal eyelets… pointy last shown below

How To Become A Shoe Designer

A shoe?s last is very important, for more reasons than one. Firstly, it makes up the shape of the shoe and there are about a trillion and one variations that one could come up. Secondly, it affects the fit, and thus the comfort of your shoe. So ever if you happen to design the coolest pattern and make the most pleasing shape one?s eye could handle, but fail to get the arch and fit right, it?s pretty much as good as garbage. I know that this is harsh to say, but?s it?s true and you need to know this. And this is why a shoe?s last is so important and is something that you need to make sure that you get right. But how do you do it? Well, there are several options when starting your own line. First, you can always just use the stock options that the factory will provide. These are most likely going to be lasts that have worked before and have been tried and tested. The only problem with this is that you are then using a shape that has been done before. It?s not yours, it belongs to someone else and more likely than not, it will be used on other shoes that are in the marketplace at the same time that yours are. This may not bother you, but for some it might. Therefore, the second option would be to create your own. But this is where the difficulty comes in.

How To Become A Shoe Designer
How To Become A Shoe Designer

From above (bespoke) to this (factory produced) – although there have been adjustments since this pic

Allow me to explain what I have done in order for you to get an idea of the possibilities that are out there. So, I have two bespoke lasts: one that I made myself for myself and another that a bespoke lastmaker made for me. While mine is not bad (in fit), it is evident that the one that the lastmaker made for me is far superior. Therefore, what I did was take my two lasts to a place that manufactures lasts and asked them if they could mimic the one that the lastmaker made for me, only changing the width proportions of it. What that means is because my foot is quite narrow and therefore my last would be too, I had them alter the new last in order to be of medium size proportions, i.e. become a standard medium fit, but keeping all of the curves/bespoke shapes of my last. For the last that I made myself, I asked them the take the toe of it, and put it on the body of the last that was made for me by the lastmaker, while of course changing the width proportions. What that meant, was that I was going to get the arch of the last made for me by the lastmaker but the toe shape of the last that I made for myself. Now this did not all work out perfectly in one go, but after a few re-creates, a bit of shaving off the edges etc., I now have two lasts that are unique to my brand and that I can call my own.

My wholecut……with brogueing….on pointy last, shown below

How To Become A Shoe Designer

Will my lasts fit everyone? No, probably not. But you cannot make one last to fit all. You can only do your best to make a last that can fit as many as possible (unless of course, you are going to do width ranges). It?s best to know your audience and try to make as close to them as possible. In England, where my company is based and where I will launch from, men tend to have a broad foot with a high instep. Therefore, while my shoes are all going to be labelled as an ?E? fitting (which is medium), it will be slightly broader (in fit, but not in look) than the average ?E? that is out there. But in order to make sure that you are going about it right, you have to conduct trial fits i.e. you have to make up pairs of shoes, then give them to the ?average? person to wear and ultimately to test. They will then need to give you feedback on the fit and how it feels. With that you can adjust accordingly.

Evolution from above to this – again, modifications have been made since this photo

It?s no easy thing creating lasts that are going to do the trick, and you will never really know how well they work until your line is out. But it?s the part of the journey that you have to make sure that you try your absolute hardest to get right??or else there could be some serious consequences?..

Stay tuned next time for a bit on the manufacturing side of the shoe industry.

Loafer last that belongs to factory – not mine – but good nonetheless!

How To Become A Shoe Designer

Part 4: The Manufacturing Side

If you make it to the point in which you are ready to have your collection made but just need someone to actually create the designs, physically, then you are nearly there. Nearly there in the sense that you have overcome many of the hurdles to becoming a shoe designer, BUT, this will be the biggest, hardest and longest one of all. Don?t let me discourage you with that statement though, as it will also be the most rewarding because after all it is with the manufacturing that you will then actually create your line, turn your sketches/patterns into actual real life products and have something that has your brand/name in it. But also due to this you will need to be absolutely sure of your choice as choosing a factory is like choosing a life partner. It?s a HUGE commitment that will set the tone for how your shoes/brand will be perceived by the public, not something easily reversible should it all go wrong. Therefore, I will do my best to tell you how I believe that one should go about finding the right manufacturer for their brand.

First and foremost, you need to look at your designs and your last shapes (or at least think about what last shape that you are going to want to use) and ask yourself what style they match i.e. what country?s’ design ethos do they most correlate to? For example, if you are intending to create classic shoes with heavy soles and round lasts, you may want to get your shoes made in Hungary or England, as they tend to be good at making these styles. Or if you want long, pointed lasts with lightweight soles and thin leathers, best to think about Italy or say Portugal (where many French shoemakers get their shoes made). Once you have this decided, it will be easier for you to make a decision (or at least rule out the unnecessary?s for when the time comes).??Another reason for this, is that I have been told that some fussy factories will not make shoes that they don?t like, or should I say, that they don?t find represent well their capabilities and/or reputation. And lastly because certain countries only do certain constructions, say England, whose factories only really make goodyear welted shoes. That being if you wanted blake stitched shoes, you would not be wise to go ask them to make them for you, as it would be waste of time and effort.

The next stage would be to go to a shoe fair/trade show where factories will come to present their product to designers/journalists/retail buyers etc. At these trade shows, you will be able to see factories from all over the world and more importantly their shoe making capabilities. At that point, you can network with a few, talk to them, suss them out and see who you like best based on price, quality, capabilities (finishing/designing etc.) and most importantly how amicable they seem. Remember that these will be the people that create a product with your name on it. They have power over you if you lie in bed with them, and you therefore need to make sure that you will be able to get on with them?..And to not lay all your eggs in one basket, you may want to find 3 that you like, ask them to make a sample for you, see which one turns out best and then pick that one, so long as it meets all of the other criteria. Once you locked down a factory, expect to pay a few thousand for your samples (as they will undoubtedly need to remake them a few times) and then you will be well on your way to launching your own line!

This is pretty much as far as I have come to on my own journey within the shoe industry, so I will leave it at this for now. Maybe in a year, once I have released my line and gone through the next stages, I will update this post to continue on helping where I can. I hope that this post has given those of you who are looking to start your own shoe line, the inspiration to go and do so, or at least to start preparing!

Best of luck to all!

Justin, ?The Shoe Snob?

Part 5: Creating Your Brand/Business Model

How To Become A Shoe Designer

It’s been awhile since I have kept up with my “How to become a shoe designer” series. This is mainly due to the fact that as I was writing it previously I had come to the point in which I could not go anymore as I had not lived/accomplished the next stages of the process. But alas, 2 years later, I have and am back to write a few most posts on the subject.

Part 5: Creating Your Brand

As I learned at university, branding is very important concept in terms of driving a successful business. Think about it. The most common word in the entire world is a brand: Coca-Cola. How powerful is that? Very! If your business name is not catchy/noteworthy it can be hard to catch on and easy to forget. Easy to forget is not very good as we all don’t always have our business cards accessible to hand out. Therefore, creating a strong brand name that is easy to remember and sticks in your mind is quite crucial.

When I was at the point in which I needed to name my shoe line, there was the dilemma of calling it either The Shoe Snob or using my name. Of course, when I first created my goal of having my own shoe line, nothing was more exciting then the idea of people wearing shoes with MY name in them and therefore I was skewed towards that idea. Now logical “branding” theory would tell me that The Shoe Snob was an already existing and catchy brand name that would be far better as an overall brand then J.FitzPatrick would. So why did I not call it The Shoe Snob then? Many might think that ego had to do with it and while of course on some subconscious level it did, I will tell a good part of it came from the way in which I needed to start my business. Allow me to explain….

The first reason had to do with the fact that smart shoes need to be somewhat serious. My competition is comprised of brands that have been around for 50-100 years (if not more). They have historical significance and to convince one of their clients to go off of the beaten path and try my shoes means that I need to present something that look as equally smart of a purchase (i.e attractive, good value etc). A gimmicky name, such as The Shoe Snob, can put off a serious client that is looking for the idea of quality, even if the very essence of The Shoe Snob is 100% about quality. First impressions are powerful and a wrong association with a name can hurt your company. It’s easy for the accessories to be branded The Shoe Snob because the most expensive product is ?36, not ?325.

I therefore felt that putting a real name behind the shoes showed substance. It makes people relate to it better. There is a person that is there creating the company, not just a faceless brand. And the fact that nearly all of my direct competitors all have brands that are a person’s name, means that it must be something that you simply ‘do’ in this part of the industry. Don’t try and fix something that is not broken, right?! So, that is one reason I decided to use my partial name and the other one will be laid out below.

How To Become A Shoe Designer

Part 5.1: Creating Your Business Model

There are really on two ways to build a shoe business: straight to customer selling (i.e. online/shopfront etc) or wholeselling. Wholeselling is by far the more practical and realistic approach for most small businesses, mainly because it does not involve a lot of upfront investment. And what wholeselling means is that you buy your shoes at price A, sell them for a small mark up to shop for price B and they take the big margin and then sell them at retail price C. When doing this you automatically have to create a retail price that allows for the transition from cost price to the retail price and being able to have that B margin in there. It’s the margin that allows you to make any sort of money for selling your shoes to another shop. But this route can also make your product more expensive than it could really be if you did a direct-to-consumer approach.

The direct-to-consumer approach involves high start-up costs and in many cases might take some investment. If you want to just come out with a shop, then you need to be able to afford not only the shop rent, but the stock, employees and of the other things that a shop comes with. It’s not cheap. And then you have to have a great marketing campaign to drive traffic to your shop or online or whatever route you chose. This is by far the harder and more riskier option of starting a line. But it does allow you to manipulate your price and thus create your own acceptable margin depending on your business model. If you manage to keep your costs as low as possible you can thus also lower your retail price to make your product look more attractive.

I kind of did a mixture of both, whereby I was able to get my shoes into someone else’s shop and sell directly to the public but had to give a nice hefty chunk of each sale to the hosting company. That means that I had to factor in a wholesale markup to make it worth my while as I was taking all of the risk, owning the shoes and thus purchasing ?40K worth of stock to launch. Also, it was my intention to wholesale to other shops around the world in order to build my brand’s international recognition. The fact that I launched at a serious place with over 200 years history, also meant that I needed to have a serious name attached to my shoes, one that could somewhat correlate to the ethos of the shop that I was selling in. Had I went the direct-to-customer approach by launching my own shop with investment, naming it ‘The Shoe Snob’ is what I would have done, as it would have been far more intriguing to those who walked by the shop window, then simply seeing “J.FitzPatrick.”

So you see, creating a brand/image is not so ‘black and white.’ There were many factors that lead to my decision. Was I right in the end? Who knows. I guess that time will tell. But either way, my three sites are all intertwined, so naturally, J.FitzPatrick will always be associated with The Shoe Snob anyway, so I am lucky in that regard. But for those of you out there that might not have a blog to help drive your business, make sure you think long and hard about your branding as the name will be stuck with you forever and can really make or break your company’s success…..


How To Become A Shoe Designer

48 thoughts on “How To Become A Shoe Designer”

  1. You have become a great young man and have learned about life through your dreams and aspirations. What a great thing to do for others, to share your knowledge is a wonderful gift to give. I am so very proud of you for everything you have accomplished and will accomplish and for the wisdom you have acquired. Congratulations Justin, keep learning and sharing.

  2. hye martin..very good job! actually i dont even have any design qualification.. but as you said, we dont need to have the degree to become a designer..I am a 27 lady that really interested in design footwear for women..but i dont really know how to exactly start my step to let my dream become reality…

  3. Hye Justin…really great job…great is really inspire me to become more brave to achieve my dream. I always wonder how am I going to be a footwear for women since I don’t have any qualification or major in design..really hope that your blog will be give me inspire to become a designer…

  4. Justin,

    Whatever you can do,
    or dream you can,
    begin it.
    Boldness has genius,
    and magic in it

    (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe 1749 – 1832)

    Very best regards,

  5. Hi Justin and Mya,

    I would say that your right that you don’t need a degree to get into the shoe world but I will say it does help a great deal. I have a degree in Industrial design and often this opens many doors when I was trying to land my first shoe job. HR departments at shoe companies target Industrial designers specifically for footwear design so having that background can often be a way to get noticed. I was lucky enough to do internships at shoe companies as an undergrad and from there was often contacted after I graduated by HR of companies or talent agencies due to my experience and degree. Now that I’m in the shoe industry I can tell you that having some kind of artistic degree helps but I do know folks that have degrees in other fields and by simply being passionate, were able to become a shoe designer.

    Some tips for people wanting to become shoe designers:

    1. Go to local design events. They are chuck full of shoe designers and by making that connection with someone it may be the way to get your foot in the door.
    2. Know Adobe Illustrator and how to draw shoes. Illustrator is an industry standard at this point and is often one of the first things companies look for when hiring. Strong hand drawing skills is also a skill that is often talked about when interviewing for a job as a shoe designer.
    3. Create a strong physical and online portfolio of footwear work. There are plenty of sites on there such as that allow you to upload work for free and are a fantastic resource to see other shoe designers work.
    4. Reach out to a footwear designer. This isn’t the easiest thing to do but if you do a little digging in drawing/design blogs you can find them. Places like Coreflot or linkedin is another way to find local footwear designers. Pick their brains and ask them if they would like to get a cup of coffee sometime. I think you might be surprised by how willing they are to talk to you or help you.

    I wish you all the best of luck in your journey and I hope I helped anyone that might be interested in becoming a shoe designer.

    best regards

    ps. I love your blog, keeps me inspired and motivated

  6. Loxy – Thanks for your kind words ma

    Mya – keep looking for the updates to this post e.g. part 2, 3 etc and then you will have a good idea of where to start…

    Snapper – Thanks as always Snapper! It was a pleasure to finally meet you the other week.

    Jason – Thank you very much for you comments and yes, for becoming a shoe designer for another company, you are completely right. My post, as I should have stated clearly, was more meant for those looking to become their own shoe designer, as in starting their own company, not going to work for another. But your points are definitely valid for that other route, and for those that read the blog and want to do that, I appreciate you pointing them in the right direction! Thanks too for your kind words about the blog. Glad that you enjoy it!


  7. Hi Justin,

    Very inspiring and informative post, and applicable to any passion one wants to turn into reality! Best of luck (again!) on your shoe line!
    What would you say was the most frustrating point during your shoe-designer-journey?

    1. glad that you enjoyed it my friend…most frustrating would be dealing with the factory to make the shoes exactly the way that I want them and consistently….but this is not a problem that only I’s just the nature of dealing with factories…the only real frustrating part of the journey was dealing with my own patience in getting to the point in which I wanted to be…it was a 6.5 year journey…a long time to wait for something

  8. thank you very much? this information highlighted is, among other things, what i have been looking for. i will in the future like to communicate to you.

  9. Thank you very much for sharing your journey. I’ve been thinking for a long time about starting a shoe line, mostly because I can never quite find the exact shoe I’m looking for! I have an idea, and have made a few sketches. I have not been able to find a manufacturer, but I had no idea where to look! How did you contact and present your design to a store to sell your shoe? How did you find a contact to do so?

    1. Glad that you enjoyed the post. For getting into a shop, well it was one that I already worked at and just convinced them that my shoes would bring people in the door. I showed the samples and presented it to them as a win-win situation, so they allowed it. But that is was a rare case. For a new designer, you would need to make samples and then make appointments with retailers to show them your product and convince them why they should carry them, whey they need them….best of luck!

  10. Hi, so I’m curious, if I’m just looking for premade generic womens flats (for now) how do I go about finding a wholesale manufacturer? I want one that would be able to put my label on the shoe but then I would decorate and resell it on my etsy shop. DO you have any recommendations for manufacturers that would do this?

    1. you would have to find one at a shoe fair such as MICAM, FFANY, MAGIC or the like or be introduced to one. I don’t personally know any, sorry….only know the men’s industry. Best of luck

  11. Thank you so much for the share. I’m currently studying pattern making and cutting and it has been a long 3year journey mainly because I work fulltime and study part time. I embarked on this journey 3years ago when I realized my foot had shrunk and I love shoes. I’m currently looking at different options to get funding for my shoeline and get it started! I see that through your journey that patience is a virtue as I sometimes get discouraged and wonder why I am doing all this work. ♥

  12. Justin was my go-to shoe man in Seattle when he worked for Nordstrom. He always wore the most interesting shoes and knew the most about all the shoes. I am happy he is living is dream and it’s my dream to wear a pair of the Fauntleroy, black size 10, on feet in the near future. Cheers Justin. Seattle misses you.

    1. Jeff, really good to hear from you! I hope that you have been well. Glad to know that you are keeping an eye on things. I hope to see you in a pair of Fauntleroy’s one day! Take care and thanks for all of your support!

  13. I live in Los Angeles, and you’d think being a fashion and garment manufacturing hub, that it would be easy to learn about shoe making and the business of shoes, but it’s not. There are a few fashion schools in my area (I go to one of them), but the only one that has a shoe program costs an exorbitant amount of money, and it won’t accept anyone with a certificate or degree from another school. What do you suggest I do to learn how to make shoes by hand?

  14. Dear Justin,
    Congratulations for your wonderful achievements, you are a powerful example of patience, hard work, dedication, ambition, and success.
    Reading your story, I had the confirmation I needed – that I can also start creating and living my dream from zero. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your journey with us.

  15. Grace Téézzy Skittles

    This is amazing Thank you!! I have been looking for an honest I WILL CLAM DOWN! FOR NOW AND NOT RUSH THINGS!! 🙂

    1. force yourself to try…my first sketches were terrible…then I just kept refining them…they are not brilliant even today but get the point across

  16. Amazing, so inspirational. Just what ive been looking to read to give me motivation and set me on the right path to designing my shoe line! xoxoxo

  17. Dear Justin
    I’m from South Africa (21 years old) . I have my 3 year plan to be an apprentice at Sfefano Bemer (by 2017). I’m currently studying Town Planning,as a lad I will be working several Jobs to help myself raise funds for me to be enrolled at Stefano Bemer. I read your articles everyday,I even shine my shoes every two days with the guide of your videos,hopefully I will one of the best shoe shine & bespoke shoe maker in the next 5-10 years,so that I can be able to comeback and have my own school of bespoke shoe making .Since there isn’t a known Bespoke shoe Craftsman in South Africa or (Africa).Thank you for inspiring us. One of my dreams is to meet you and I will.

  18. Hello… this was a great read, thanks. I’m looking to start my own shoeline of womens shoes, How did you start? Who did you network with and how? I’m just looking for tips because I have no idea where or how to begin!

  19. Hello Justin, I’m in Florence, Italy right now looking for manufactures but keep coming up short finding any good ones or any at all. What would be your suggestion on how to look for manufactures in Italy? I’m going to be here until the 13th of January. Thank you for these blog.

  20. Hello I found it very helpful, I too have been considering doing a woman’s line and now that I read the article here Im not so sure I would ever be able to afford to do this…I am not sure where to begin to find someone who can make the boots I have in mind. I do now there is a big demand for them as I have done my research and my own personal dilemma.I want to do an affordable line for the average working woman today.I have the name in mind I would like to use, I am in RI and not really sure where to turn from this point on. I wish you the best of luck you have a great line of shoes.Thanks Rhonda, RI

    1. Hi Rhonda,

      You can check out They are a family owned shoe manufacturing company based in California and manufactures from China, at a pretty affordable price. I got my line of boots made by them just recently. Hope this helps.

    1. start putting pen to paper and create a portfolio. Then once you have that, you need a business plan or way of going about starting your line. Once you have that and some financial investment, you can approach a factory and go from there.

  21. Justin, I’m trying to find on your (very informative) blog, the exact description (with all the stages) of the hand made shoe making process, but cant find it. Can you help please?

  22. Hi Justin! This blog was amazing thank you so much for sharing. I am currently living in Sydney, Australia – do you know anything about good manufactures in Aus or South East Asia? Or where I could look for some that aren’t dodgy?

    Many thanks – your story is amazing! Very inspirational 🙂

  23. Bernard McAfee

    Hey Justin! This blog is very inspiring and amazing blog. Listen, I have a great shoe design that my friend and i would like to develop. I would like to ask you some question about clarifying about getting started with things like retail, manufacturing, and more of a walk of your personal experience. I will leave my gmail so whenever you get a chance we can talk.
    – your inspired student Bernard

  24. Hi Justin. Blog is amazing. One thing Though. Ive registered my 2 designs in the Uk and was wondering should I register it internationally Including trademarks as before I go China to get them to make product as they might copy it from me. Could you advise me please. I’m stuck here.

    Business plan and sales forecast done. Jus bad credit and no funds but it won’t stop me as my designs are going to help me with that.

    Also do you know the rough amount of quantity of shoes needed to have a space in a shop or to sell whole sale.
    For example shops like . Fenwick or John lewis
    Also IP attorneys to sign internationally design. I don’t want to get ripped off. What do they normally charge?

    My email is if you could reply if your not busy

  25. Hi Justin! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience in the shoe industry. I was inspired by your words and your kindness in sharing your thoughts to help aspiring entrepreneurs, like me, who wanted to have their own shoe line. Reading your blog also guided me to take into account things I need to work on in order to have a successful business. Also, I really am glad that I took the same course as you did and I somehow felt a deep connection in your words and thought everything I have learned in school concerning business model,branding, marketing and more.

    Anyway, as a new fan of yours I really wanted to hear from you. May I ask if you could give me some advice because I am thinking to start up a shoe business with my friend and I thought that it would be a good idea because two brains is better than one right? Likewise, instead of having one theme or genre I thought that our shoe line would embrace two themes since we have different styles and personalities when it comes to dressing up. She is more engaged in the feminine side/styles and I am more attracted to rocker/boyish style. Please help me. It would mean a lot hearing from you. Thank you.

    Here is my email:

    Hoping to hear from you. Looking forward for more blog posts! 🙂 – Alyanna

  26. Hello Justin, thank you for sharing this. I was looking for a private label shoe manufacturer in Spain and just bumped into your blog. 🙂 I would like to start my own shoe brand too but it’s hard to find some good private label shoe manufacturer. Can you recommend me some from your own experiences which shoe manufacturer ( for men shoes) are good or kind to work with? Hoping to hear from you, soon. Thank you very much.

  27. Thank you Justin for sharing your experience. This was truly inspiring to me. I have been working on my brand for about 6 years now and did not realize the time and work it took to build a brand!

  28. This article was amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey and it goes to show you if you have a passion in something you don’t always need a million credentials to make it happen. If you have a vision just go for it!! I have had many fashion ideas pop in my head from clothing designs, shoes, handbags, belts, sunglasses, etc…Whenever I am out shopping I sometimes find garments that need a zipper, or they should have added pockets, or the stitching colour is wrong, or this material would look so much better, etc…I’m not trying to say those designers are wrong or anything but just my vision that I personally have I feel could have made it different if that makes sense. All the images that pop into my head I love but I have no idea where to start to make it a reality…I’m struggling with finding the right contacts to connect with to make this a reality..Also the cost worries me too…I did take an Interior Decorating class in college and have always been creative at heart…Now I’m working in a financial industry that just sucks away all of creative drive…I started a small blog/website but eventually want to branch off to brand my own designs….Do you have any guidance on some manufactures, especially sourcing materials? do you source your materials in your own country or outsource to China?….I see Alibaba/Aliexpress has many materials I’m just not sure on the quality and such…I really want to make sure the quality I use is authentic and well made if that makes sense….Also, do you have any references to specific companies who render your ideas? or make your concepts more realistic?..I’m not the best drawer but I can somewhat convey my visions….I would love to hear your thoughts….Thanks so much and your designs are incredible!! You are very talented.

    1. @Monique you should start an instagram account and post before and after of your clothing alterations. You could start an alteration business. People could pay you to customize their existing pieces. That would be cool to be able to alter my wardrobe instead of buying new.

  29. The feeling of wearing handmade and custom shoes of your own choice is totally different. When I wear my custom shoe I feel more comfortable in them and i can wear it whole day.

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