Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you become a shoe designer?
  • It happened by chance! I studied for an A Level in design and decided to make childrens shoes for my final project. I read about how shoes were made in my college library and decided to make lasts out of clay! I made the soles out of an old mini car tyre. The college must have been impressed because I got a starred A and have not seen my project since as they 'borrowed it' for teaching purposes apparently.
  • Following this, a tutor said 'you know you can study footwear don't you? I didn't. I was thinking about studying fashion, but after having a chat with my family and doing a bit of research, I realised it might be a good idea as there are very few footwear graduates and hundreds of fashion ones!
How did you become a shoe designer?
  • I went to Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) and studied for a BA (Hons) in Footwear and Leather Accessories Design. When I left college I got my first job as a junior designer at The Pentland Group.
I want to be a shoe designer. What should I do?
  • I'd recommend you contact the colleges in my links section and visit them and speak to the students there. If you like what you see, then go ahead and apply.
  • If you are in the UK, you will need to study for a foundation course first. I didn't study for one, (I worked like crazy at nightschool to avoid doing one), but it is incredibly difficult to get on a course without one!

How are shoes made? Where can I get some information?
  • There is some information on the British Footwear Association website, which you may find useful.
Do you make your own shoes?
  • I did as a student, but I don't currently do so, because of the heavy machinery and unusual components required.
I have large/small/narrow/wide feet - Where can I get shoes from?
  • If you are in the UK contact The British Footwear Association as they hold lists for companies that supply them. Otherwise, I may have them listed in my links page.
Could you design and make a pair of shoes just for me?
  • We don't make shoes because we have no workshop - we design only, but we do hold a list of shoemakers who can make shoes, just for you. We also have friends in London who can teach you to make your own shoes. Go here:
I want to patent my shoe idea - can you help me?
I need to find a shoe factory - can you help?
  • It depends on your requirements. If you want a few pairs at luxury price points then there are sample factories we can use but it depends on the type of footwear. And in many other factories you need to prove you are serious by going in with a solid business plan, a clear vision and funding already in place. Many factories are now demanding hefty deposits before they will make you a single shoe. We will be able to tell you more when we have evaluated your project. Have you also considered making them yourself? We have contacts who can teach you! Even sneakers!
I want to go to a shoe trade show?
  • For some suggestions, visit the trade show links on my links page.
Do you take on work from outside of the UK?
  • Yes, I do. I have plenty of experience working with companies from all over the world. Please contact me with your requirements.
Is it necessary for us to meet in order for you to do this?
  • No, as long as we keep in touch properly by video calls and emails.
Do you design items other than shoes?
  • Not usually
  • I prefer to recommend other designers who are experts in these areas. Although I have been designing the metal and jewel encrusted hardware for a swimwear brand, so it depends what it is!
Do you take people on work experience/internships / Can I come and work for you?
  • Unfortunately I cannot, we are small business of two people, we are often travelling for months and we do not have the room to accommodate extra staff or interns. My suggestion is if you want an internship, identify the companies you would like to work for, call directory enquiries and ask for the Head Office of that company. When you call, ask to speak to the design manager. You may be fielded back to human resources in some cases and they will deal with your enquiry. Make sure you apply to lots of companies to ensure you get a result.
Is it really necessary to study in order to become a shoe designer? I don't want to go back to college.
  • If you want to be an employee or a freelance designer, there can be a lot of competition at the junior/assistant design level so any technical knowledge of footwear or an understanding of it will be a definite advantage, because your first footwear design job could be difficult to secure. I'd recommend that you at least study some kind of design related subject to give you more of an advantage.
I cannot find any footwear design courses in my country. What should I do?
  • Consider fashion design or industrial design (if you want to design athletic footwear), instead. Check out the course curriculum, because many fashion design courses will cover at least some footwear design. Then consider internship with a footwear company.
I want to design athletic footwear - do you have any advice?
  • The trend (for the big, famous brands at least) seems to be to employ designers who studied ID (Industrial design), although it is not unusual for footwear graduates to be considered. Especially if you want to work for the big brands, you should be aware that this part of the trade is very competitive indeed. Friends of mine who do work for these big brands always started in less famous less cool footwear companies first.
I already have lots of my shoe designs down on paper, how do I sell them?
  • The footwear trade does not really work like that. Companies do not generally buy in designs, unless you already have specialist experience putting together fashion trends, design packs and have already had lots of commercial success designing for the mass market. Normally, everything is designed to order, the designer follows a brief and companies use either their own in-house design teams or they employ freelance designers (like myself) to work to their exact instructions. A great designer can design shoes to customers tastes other than their own. I don't often design the kind of shoes that I personally want to wear, I design to the tastes of my clients customers.
  • You have these choices:
    If you want to design shoes to your taste you could get some samples made and market your own brand. Alternatively you could study shoemaking and make the shoes yourself. If you want to go down either of these two routes, you will need to invest a lot of money in order to make it work. If you want a footwear design career and are happy following other peoples design briefs, then consider studying footwear or fashion, then apply for jobs on your graduation.

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