Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Urshuz New Eco Friendly Footwear Brand

Eco friendly footwear brands are ten a penny, these days. But things have moved on. Thing is, what is the point of saying your shoe is recyclable when you'd have to be a genius with way too much time on your hands in order to disassemble it so you could pop the component parts in the bin?

I'm pleased to say that there are companies out there that have asked this question themselves and the new shoe brand Urshuz (pronounced Yer Shoes) just launched with an innovative removeable sole. Once you're done, simply remove it and chuck it in the recycling or even better, send it back to Urshuz and they'll recycle it into new soles. Brilliant! You could also replace only the bits of the shoe that wear out, rather than the whole dog n' pony show!

Intrigued by this new concept, I caught up with the designer of Urshuz to ask him some questions......

You seem like an unusual company! As well as the shoes being unique, are there any other ways that your shoe company differs from regular shoe companies? Our slogan is “Change Everything,” and in the process of building this brand, we really did have to change everything about our approach to footwear. Because this product is so unique, we had to re-think things every step of the way, from the way we design our collections, to our production methods, to our merchandising strategy. So really, everything about the way we conduct business is innovative and unique!

How important were ‘green issues’ when you developed this line?From the get-go, Grant (Urshuz Founder and Chief Creative Officer) thought it was important to make his footwear line green in order to reduce its impact on the environment. Because Urshuz are designed with detachable soles, it was obvious that one way he could offer a green shoe was to make our soles recyclable. His vision for green footwear guided his material selection and led him to thermoplastic rubber (TPR), which is 100% recyclable, and is now used to make Urshuz soles.

Why are these shoes better than other eco friendly shoes that are out there? These shoes are different than other eco friendly shoes in two ways. Our product offers consumers a simple, uncomplicated way to recycle. Because the soles and uppers are not attached with any glues, the soles can be easily detached, recycled and reused. We ask that consumers simply send back their worn soles (in exchange for a $5 discount on a future purchase), which we’ll use to make new soles. It’s as easy as that! Our brand has a green conscious, and as we grow, we’d like to improve our product and production methods to make them even more environmentally friendly. Secondly, most if not all eco friendly shoes out there don’t give consumers the option to choose and change their style. We’re offering a product that is green, and promotes creativity and choice!

When can we get these in the UK?Hopefully in the next month. We recently launched our online store and now offer shipping to the United States and Canada, and we’re currently (and hastily!) working on setting up shipping to other areas, including the UK.

Any plans for a womens line? We have a women’s line in development which is expected to debut in 2012. It includes boat shoes, mary janes, and some adorable sandals and flip flops.

For more information and to purchase (and to hassle them about making their womens line available to those of us in the UK *cough* go here www.Urshuz.com

Friday, 9 September 2011

Why does it all look the same?

Am I alone in thinking that the shoe stores look the same as they did last year? I've just returned from the GDS shoe in Dusseldorf and whilst I've seen some interesting new ideas, there is lots of same ole same ole shoe designs out there. Such as washed leather, distressed, raw stack wedges, vaquetta and veg tans (but thankfully very few gladiators - phew!)

Why is this? Well in case you didn't notice (LOL) we're in a recession. We recessionista designers are going to have to think more creatively, because our clients don't have much budget for new heels, new lasts and new upper patterns, they cost too much money that our clients don't have!

This is one of the skills of a designer - to be creative with what you already have. I've always thought it is much easier to design for the luxury market. You can do lots of new lasts, new heels, your budget is unlimited. Your customer also has a huge budget. She probably won't be thinking, 'cost per wear.' Hell she probably won't even be walking in them, preferring to use a limousine, so you will be able to specify nubuck soles that don't wear that well, because it won't matter, (something that the Daily Mail got it's knickers in a twist about recently).

So I was interested to see this new shoe designers work, exhibited at GDS. He did get creative with what he already has, he designed these shoes by taking classic brogues, cutting them up and re-pieceing the uppers. Brilliant! For more visit http://www.mistercheng.com/

Monday, 8 August 2011

How Do I sell My Shoe Designs?

We are often contacted by budding new shoe designers, who have a portfolio of shoe designs and are keen to sell them and want to know how.
Footwear companies do not buy unsolicited designs in this way. Why?
The nature of the footwear trade is such that footwear companies have very specific needs. When we are contacted to help a company with their shoe designs they either give us a thorough design brief, or we have discussions with them to determine their needs and we then help them to write a brief.
A footwear design can be dictated by all kinds of variables. The factory, for instance.
If I am designing a shoe that will be made in Italy, for a mid price point, it's unlikely that I would design a shoe as the attached footwear spec sheet. The hand beading would be more suited to a shoe made in an Indian or Chinese factory and because of the price, perhaps we wouldn't make the sandal in leather. When designing for a client, I have to be aware of the capabilities of the factory they are using. There is no point in designing a shoe with a stitchdown construction if the factory does not have that machine.
Price is a factor. There is no point in designing some Swarovski encrusted amazing creation if our client has a budget of $10 ex factory.
Even factors such as weather, or cultural issues can determine the styling. When we designed shoes for a client in Asia we were requested to limit the amount of yellow in our colourways as it is a Royal colour and should not be worn unless you are the King!
As a shoe designer, one has to behave almost like an actress, getting into character, in order to understand what the customer of that particular client likes to wear. It is no good for the client if I just design shoes that I like and then try to push my personal taste on them. For instance I design lots of glamorous high heels but that isn't my personal style - I wear flats! Designing for others is a skill and I have to say I do enjoy the whole process of getting into character, understanding what that customer would like to wear. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you got it right.

We do have customers who buy packs of designs from us. But they still dictate to us the kind of designs they'd like to see, before we put pen to paper and we do have to bear in mind where these shoes will be made.
There are companies that buy designs - to use in Footwear trend publications such as Footwear Plus. But this is a competitive area and they will want evidence that you have worked in a commercial environment and can forecast footwear trends.
So if you want to sell your work, what should you do?
Get some formal training. You need to understand footwear construction, otherwise you will make the mistake of designing shoes that cannot be manufactured easily.
Work as an employee to get some experience. Becoming a commercial designer is a difficult skill to learn, to appeal to the masses and to be able to design a shoe that looks great but isn't too costly to manufacture is a skill.
Or, you could learn to make shoes and set your own workshop up and make the shoes exactly as you please.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Totally Mental Modular Shoe Design.

Ok, call off the dogs. Forget flip flops with changeable uppers, forget removeable heels, don't bother with foldable ballet slippers.

Designer Sharon Golan pwns all of you with her modular shoe design. Only 256 combinations to work on. Plus an instruction book and a DVD to figure it all out.

What is it with Israeli shoe designers anyway? First Kobi Levi and now Sharon. Brilliant!

Source: Reuters

Friday, 1 July 2011

Who can make my shoe prototype?

One of the most common questions we are asked is if we can make footwear prototypes.

The answer is, no, this is not the focus of our business - we concentrate solely on design, not sampling. This is because we do not have a workshop. The designs that we create for our customers are made in the sample rooms of the footwear factories that will also be making the production.

First of all, what is the function of a prototype? Is it to sell from? Is it to gain investment?Is it to test out a patented invention?

I personally think that shows such as Dragons Den are a bit misleading - the entrepreneurs we have worked with at www.shoedesign.co.uk have not needed a prototype to gain investment. It's not really necessary. All I can think is that they need to see a prototype on Dragons Den because it would make rubbish television viewing if they didn't have something for us to look at! The most important thing to investors is a sound business plan. They will be more interested in your order forecast that whether that heel is a nice shape! The prototype comes after the investors. The usual course of action is business plan->investment->prototype.

If you want to patent an invention of course you will need a prototype, but this would normally come after you gain investment, not before. You will need to consider the capabilities of the person who will be making this - do they have relevant experience to do a good job? Do they have access to the relevant machinery to make your prototype?

If you want a prototype to sell from, beware - if you are selling to retailers, then it's really important that the shoe sample looks exactly like the production. So it really needs to be made in the sample room of the factory that will be making the production, otherwise it is impossible to get the same look. So you really need to find a suitable factory for your footwear range and this is why we always stress to business start up's that they need to start looking for a suitable resource sooner rather than later. And just the same as investors, they will also be interested in your business plan. If they can't see evidence of any orders, then it's pretty hard to convince them to take you on.

Although we do not offer a factory introduction service , we can help you with advice on how to go about this.

More on our website

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sneaker Design Courses?

I do occasionally get asked about these but they tend to be thin on the ground. Sneaker designers tend to come from an ID background, which means they are as likely to be able to design phones, but that also means that they may not understand much about footwear construction.

Students on footwear courses have to learn pattern cutting and making, but their courses tend to focus on traditional footwear and may only briefly touch on sneaker design.

So I was interested to hear that Parsons School of Design has introduced the Pensole Program - a four week course specifically in sneaker design and tutored by a Nike designer.

The great thing about this course is that in order to get a place you are judged on your talents as a shoe designer and not on the traditional qualifications.

I hope we will see some exciting new talent and some amazing new shoe designers emerging from this innovative program.

You may not be able to view this link as it requires a subscription to the USA magazine Footwear News, but you can always message me if you want to know more.

Picture courtesy of Footwear News

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cheesy Feet (geddit?)

I love 'Art' shoes, that is - shoes that aren't really shoes as such but are made for artistic purposes. Fashion Student Lisa Dillon has made some high heeled shoes out of cheese (yup, cheese you read this correctly).

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Micam Time again!

I'm booked on the Redeye from Heathrow to Milan tomorrow, for my biannual visit to the Micam fair. Micam is one of the most important footwear fairs in the world and is the fair if you are interested in fashion shoes.
It is held every March and September in the Fiera Milano, which is based outside of the city near Malpensa airport.
So why should a freelance footwear designer attend a footwear show? Well....
This is the most important fair for me. I occasionally attend other shows, but I never miss this one. I meet clients who manufacture in Italy, it's an easy way of speaking to the factories that we work with because they all have exhibition booths at the show, they usually have samples ready to show us, so we can try them on and make any adjustments while we are there. I also cover the show for clients who are too busy to attend, I go and meet their suppliers and make sample selections, then in the evening after the show, I email the photos and prices to their office.
I network with people I know, it's a good way of catching up, especially with friends in the trade who live abroad, we only see each other because we both attend.
I meet potential new clients, who have seen that I am visiting the show from reading my website.
I visit the shoe factories that I know and we exchange information and ideas.
I buy lots of fashion magazines, particularly trade press that might be difficult to buy back in London.
I also walk the fair looking for new trends, I visit the vintage section in the bag show (Mipel) because it is usually a great place to get ideas and I visit Milans shops, to check out trends there.
So it's a really busy show for me.
But there are some fun bits, I always stay with my friend and fellow Buddhist Paola. She is an artist and I sleep surrounded by huge and quite dramatic pop art paintings! Then there is the British Footwear Association Party - always great fun and the UK shoe trade get on together like a house on fire, we love to catch up with each other.
Then the shopping, ooooh the shopping. I usually come back with a pair of shoes and something from my favourite store 10 Corso Como, but being a keen cook, I can't resist wasting time in the cooking dept of La Rinascente department store - this is another amazing store if you visit!
Then finally, being a boater I always visit the Navigli Area, the canal area, which always makes me appreciate the canals in the UK, because they just don't treasure the canals in Milan, which is sad.
If you ever visit the Navigli area of Milan, look out for the little old ice cream shop between where the two canals meet. It is fabulous inside, wooden carved cabinets with glass etched doors and lots of polished brass. And very nice ice cream. This area of town is also good for eating out.
Image for this post was borrowed from the Micam website which is here http://www.micamonline.com/micam/main.nsf/openSezione?openagent&sezione=MICAM0AA68

Monday, 28 February 2011

Fashion Fringe UK Shoe Design Competition.

This is pretty much the Footwear Designer competition of the year (the other one being the Footwear Friends Award) and has been won in the past by fantastic new shoe designers who went on to become well known and successful in their field.

This year Fashion Fringe have partnered with Bruno Frisoni, who will alos be judging the entries and the top prize is a six months apprenticeship with him, working on the Roger Vivier line in Paris. So a fantastic not to be missed opportunity.

Applications for the 2011 awards are now open. http://www.fashionfringe.co.uk/accessories/

Image courtesy of www.stylefrizz.com Bruno Frisoni for Roger Vivier

Just to add: it has been drawn to my attention that there are shoe design 'competitions' out there that may not be what they seem. Please be careful. Do not enter any competition that requests that you to pay them money to enter. Be sure of who you are dealing with. No genuine shoe design competition that I have ever seen has demanded money. The competition should be about your talent and not about how much you can afford to pay.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Burglar Identified by his Hello Kitty Sandals

I used to design Footwear for the Hello Kitty license, the highlight being a trip to the Sanrio Headquarters in Germany, where we had coffee from a pink Hello Kitty coffee machine and we drank out of Hello Kitty mugs!

So when I saw this story I had to laugh. In Japan and other parts of Asia, it's not considered odd for men to like Hello Kitty. Infact I've sat in many a boardroom meeting besuited executives and smiled when they produce Hello Kitty stationery from their briefcase!

So, I read this story on Anime News Network a burglar in Japan has been identified by his pink Hello Kitty sandals. It sure beats the Reebok Classic which is the boring choice of villains in the UK!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ok it's still January, but......

I've already got a favourite shoe of the summer. Ok, there have been kazillions of fruit themed shoes in the past, but I really love this one by Charlotte Olympia. I just love the proportions - funny and sexy at the same time. I think there must be an unwritten rule that if you are shoe designer with Brazilian heritage, you MUST create a fruit shoe or people will be very disappointed.

Can be bought via Luisa Via Roma, the link is currently down, but you can find the info here:

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Shoe related Boats #2

The previous post reminded me of other shoe inspired boats. I'm going to dedicate this post to the memory of Thames boat builder Peter Freebody. Here is one of his slipper launches.

If you want a slipper launch of your very own follow the link http://www.peterfreebody.com/slipper_launch_for_sale.php

Friday, 14 January 2011

Shoe related boats #1

Now as some of you may know (and some of you may not), I'm a liveaboard boater, so I think about boats almost as much as I think about shoes.

If I weren't on the Inland Waterways in my narrowboat, I'd love to learn to sail. I found this Puma yacht online and it's for sale. But I don't think I'd get something with a keel like this up the River Lee (where my marina is).

If you have a fortune to spare, go here for more info. http://www.pumavolvo70forsale.com/index.html