Getting into Footwear

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After the statement, “Oh, you’re the first footwear designer I’ve met,” I usually receive the inquiry, “How did you get into that?” It’s a fair question. The footwear, or more specifically, sneaker industry only spans three major companies followed by numerous medium to small enterprises. My storyline is neither linear nor unheard. Many went off-course from other focuses or professions landing in a small “catch-all” - but not in the typical sense – of the sneaker industry. In my case it was not completely intentional, but somehow made sense considering my array of enthusiasms.

During my studies I never directly touched upon footwear. Surrounding projects included fashion design, furniture, graphics and just making really. Everything I imagined became a prototype through the use of molds, jigs, table saws, vacuum forms and much more in my school’s extensive portfolio of workshops. All of these studies, my motivation and maker approach landed my first internship at Converse. Without knowing it, my response “It’s like the perfect blank canvas” during my interview was pinpointedly appropriate. Anyone in the industry can translate your thought, process and experience into a measurable potential for their business.

This happened more than one might expect, especially in the States where footwear programs are not as established as their Italian or UK counterparts. Many in fact did not study footwear. Backgrounds of colleagues include illustration, furniture, industrial design, apparel and interior design. Their curiosity for a profession that “someone else” always seems to do or passion for sneakers brought them into the industry. My amazement always surrounds the percentage of colleagues who can raddle off sneaker facts and favorites while sipping a coffee and shopping online – at the same time. Now and again this type of work obscures edges between job, life and pure passion.

Whichever way we all got into the industry, it brings together one of the most entertaining mix of personalities from a small net that might “catch-all” but the right “all”. The reason I feel lucky that in the beginning someone could make sense of my experience and say, “Yes, she could do footwear.”