Friday, 17 December 2010

It's almost New Years resolution time...

and I'm getting many, many enquiries from those of you that have a shoe design based resolution.
Perhaps you fancy yourself as the next Tinker Hatfield (Air Jordan designer, pictured), perhaps you fancy yourself as the next Louboutin, perhaps you have lots of designs and ideas and you want to see them turned into real shoes?
I thought I'd reiterate some of the questions I get and answer them here.
I have lots of amazing shoe designs on paper and I want to sell them.
Unfortunately shoe companies don't buy in designs like this. They employ professional designers (either employees or freelancers like me) to do it. We are given a design brief, which we have to follow closely. We are trained to design shoes that can be easily made on a production line, we can design to a given price, we know how to provide the instructions to a factory to make the shoe. If you want to be able to sell your designs, then you need to study and gain a qualification, to learn the technical side of shoe production, to learn how to follow a design brief, then with hard work and luck, you can gain employment in the shoe trade and you will be able to see your designs on peoples feet.
I want to start my own shoe brand and I need samples
The first thing you are going to need is lots of money - it is hard to estimate exactly how much money you would need to launch a brand, but a few tens of thousands of dollars would not be far off the mark. Why so much money?
Well, one pair of luxury women's shoe samples from a sample maker in Italy could set you back about 500 euros. Then there's the flights to Italy and the hotel for two weeks (you cannot develop a new brand without visiting the factory, someone will have to go there.) In the UK, the lowest price for samples would be about £200 per pair, but (if you can find shoe makers that is), they are usually much more than that!
For sneakers it is more difficult as traditional shoe makers and sample rooms cannot make this type of footwear - you would have to convince a factory to work with you. If you want to design your own soles, then the sample mold will set you back about $1000 alone. Then you have to factor in travel to the factory and hotels and shipping costs for those samples. Convincing a factory is tricky, they will want to know what your business plan is, how many pairs order can they expect from those samples and when? If you can't answer those questions, they may think you are too much of a risk to them. Investing in a new brand is not only costly for you, it is costly for the factory. They will not see any return on their investment in you for several seasons and making samples for you will tie up their sample room, when they could be making samples for an established brand, which might attract guaranteed or better orders This is why they have to be cautious in deciding who to work with and this is why many of them do not take the risk of working with new brands.
If you want to be taken seriously, then it's a good idea to do a footwear course, it's an even better idea to write as business plan, it's an excellent idea to visit a trade show and do some networking.
I'm updating my website to include and education and jobs section - I'll be quizzing entrepreneurs and asking them advice and sharing it with you.
Good luck with your New Years Resolutions!

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