Footwear designers use their strong imaginative and drawing and technology based design skills to create and construct casual, formal and sports footwear for men, women and children, for high street to high end luxury brands and customers, using leather, fabrics and other textiles to ensure comfort and safety.
Footwear designers may work on a freelance basis or for footwear, clothing and accessories retailers and suppliers and work closely with creative and buying teams to ensure products are in line with brand guidelines and trends, while maximising sales opportunities.
Specialist footwear designers may design sports and dance, orthopaedic ranges and industry specific protective footwear, such as those used in construction or health and medical professions. Therefore, strong knowledge of foot anatomy is required.
Keeping up to date with trends from fashion shows, bloggers, luxury and high street retailers and trade shows is essential to create fashion forward products.
Overseas travel is often required to source new ideas, inspiration and to meet and liaise with suppliers and manufacturers.
Duties may include:
- identifying and predicting footwear trends
- researching trends and design concepts, including competitor analysis and market research
- creating new designs using drawings and design software
- pattern design and cutting
- creating boards to demonstrate designs, trends and materials
- presenting ideas
- communicating designs to suppliers to create samples and ranges
- visiting overseas suppliers to oversee design and production process.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for footwear designers
- creative and imaginative
- strong design and drawing skills
- knowledge of footwear pattern design and cutting, materials and construction
- excellent IT skills, CAD design software, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
- customer focused
- commercial awareness, good understanding of the industry and competitors
- knowledge and understanding of safety and quality policies and procedures
- ability to translate ideas into products
- good team player
- ability to communicate confidently and effectively
- highly organised, with the ability to manage deadlines and costs
- languages may be useful
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of footwear designers
- footwear and fashion retailers
- footwear suppliers and manufacturers
England and Wales
Qualifications and training
Creativity is a key requirement to become a Footwear designer and previous work experience in a retail or design environment or can be helpful, as competition for roles is high.
Apprenticeships may be offered by some companies. Some specialist colleges and universities offer a level 2 or 3 course, one year art foundation and degree/ masters leather, textiles and footwear design (specialist programmes are available at institutions such as Cordwainers (University of the Arts), De Montfort and Northampton) and may be required for some job roles.
In Scotland, the University of Strathclyde has a course in Sport Engineering which offers the opportunity to specialise in footwear. Entry requirements are 4 As at Higher including Maths and Physics or Engineering Science. Higher Art & Design or Design & Manufacture is also recommended.