Designing footwear unlike other products has its limitations. It must work for your feet (Unless you’re making an art statement). At the beginning of every footwear project I carry out, I strive to have a purpose of why, what and who I’m designing for. The reason why I do this is because I want my product to be relevant and be a style signature.
1. Idea & design
At this stage, I start my creative process with cross-pollination of ideas on a roll of paper and then visualize the ideas through hundreds of sketches. Feedback is the best way to help refine your ideas, so ask experienced professionals for advice on improving your design or consider other venues you can explore.
2. Exploration and Prototyping
At this point, this is where I test whether my ideas work or not. It also gives me an opportunity to try out those really out of the box concepts that might pop up during the brainstorming session. You never know what actually work, unless you have done it. Some ideas look good on paper, but not once you make them.
After narrowing down your ideas to a couple prototypes, you have to evaluate what details and materials you’ll carry over to the final design. Details make the design in footwear and sets you apart from the competition. Also, at this stage, you have to make a prototype with exactly the same materials you’ll use for your final piece as I did in the video shown on this post. Therefore, you get a honest feedback on how the material will behave, feel and look. Finally, you put together an assembly order that will help you make the final step as smooth as possible.
4. Final Model
A good execution is crucial in your final product because this is what the customer perceives at first sight. By a having a well detailed and organized assembly order of the shoe, it’ll help guiding you through the process, but the quality of the craft depends on you. Once you have finished putting together the final product, you can start applying the last touches. This can include anywhere from putting a design on an insole to a special finish on the leather, or polishing at a professional level which can take several hours.
5. Production Ready
Before you start producing your shoe in high quantities, you’ll create a specification sheet or tech pack that will contain every design detail, materials, hardware and finishes that the factory will use to manufacture.
Shoemaking skills are important because they help you create better products and understand what it takes to manufacture your shoe. Therefore, you know what to ask a factory for and what it will take to be produced. Despite the advances in technology and the popularity of mass-produced shoes, handmade footwear still holds a special value among customers who seek for a high end product, uniqueness and a style that big fashion brands lack to deliver sometimes.