Shoe design’s secret heros
Celebrities from Katy Perry and Paris Hilton, to Sarah Jessica Parker and TOWIE’s Jessica Wright, have made the press with their shoe designs. The celebs will undoubtedly have had creative input into their eponymous ranges, but their designs will have been finessed by experienced shoe designers.
Christian Louboutin, Nicholas Kirkwood and Brian Atwood are the creative minds behind their brands, but they still employ other designers to bring their ideas to life.
So who are these trained shoe designers whose names you don’t know? In this series, I celebrate the people responsible for inventing most of the shoes sold around the world.
These are the people who really design your shoes.
On a placement year from university or newly graduated with a BA (Hons) in Footwear Design, these hard working shoe people deserve a mention.
Putting in long hours to impress, the interns do the design jobs that their seniors don’t want to. They churn out reams of pencil sketches of new designs, invariably for one of the less exciting collections.
The intern is likely to spend a lot of time filing, and sorting out shoe samples and swatches of leather and fabric. If they’re lucky they might be able to try their hand at generating numerous print designs. That’s painstaking work, and there’s a chance that all might be rejected. These things are all in a day’s (and sometimes night’s) work for the low paid shoe design intern. She or he may need to take another job at the weekends to supplement their income.
Design teams travel abroad on inspiration trips, to trade shows and conferences. There is rarely the budget to take the intern away, so they are often left holding the fort in an eerily quiet studio. Some bosses will call and email regularly wanting instant drawings or checking the intern hasn’t left before 8pm.
When the placement’s over, the company is under no obligation to give the intern permanent employment. They might be lucky and have impressed so much that they are given a job, but the employer could just move on to the next intern to save money. The intern will then update their CV and LinkedIn profile with their experience, and search for the next internship or (fingers crossed) permanent design role.
The good news is that a great shoe design intern can become a shoe designer who does get to travel. They will also get to work on more exciting ranges, and may even get to meet and work with a celebrity “designer”.