This is my final post related to study of Footwear Design at Leicester college/De Monthford university and to subject ‘Profesional development’ module undertaken in 2nd year.
I have applied to various companies that i found contact for and also agencies operating in East middlands, and few companies in London. Those were; Elan Polo, T& A (producing shoes for River Island, Next) Hush Puppies, Superhouse Limited, Brantano, Shoezone, Unito. I have registered in online database with other known companies like Jimmy CHoo, Sergio Rossi, Roberto Botella, Pepe Jeans, Ravel, Asos, Fendi, Jil Sander. The companies i have registered with were: Fashion Retails Personel, Freedom Recruitment, Elite Associates, 24 seveninc. co.uk, Fashion Jobs Board.com, Fashion Monitor, Fashion Therapy, Indesign Recruitment, Pakter.com,UandI Recruitment.
As a freelance designer i have opened a profile on a couple websites like PeoplePerHour, Elance.com, Guru.com. The websites i was looking at when searching for jobs as a footwear designer were social sites like Twitter/UK Fashion Intern, Fashion United/career,Fashion Capital, Fashion industry Network, Creativepool. So far i have gotten a few responses stating the same, that i have no required work experience at least 1 year and when i do get it they may offer me jobs.
The placement where work experience have been taken was with a company called Freed. It is an english company based in Leicester and London, East Middlands and producing dancing shoes -ballroom shoes, ballet shoes, salsa shoes. It is a well-known established company supplying shoes for dancers all over the world.
The visit to the factory was undertaken in order to understand the shoemaking process. The company producing about 30-40 pairs of shoes each day in London or Leicester factory, 250.000 pair of shoes in each year selling them in 50 countries. Each process of manufacture is hand-made and each shoe costs around 40-50£ and the ballerina shoes 100£. On the bottom of shoes a logo can be seen as a signature to fine craftsmanship. The brand has its long heritage starting at 1920 when Frederic Freed opened a small shop on basement , with his wife and quickly found the sucess. The company distinguishes herrself with unusual soft pastel colour, perfect fit and interesting design which make the shoes popular among dancers. The factory was quite smaller than i would expect, but huge storage of thousands of shoes, much more than on the website. The manufacturing pointed shoe was interesting to see, it is a hard work to make, and each shoe takes about an hour to make. The process of shoemaking was much more diverse than i could see in college. To make a business with dancing shoes is a clever idea because dancers need constantly new shoes, often new pair with each day of dancing and the theatre spends thousands of pounds just on shoes each year.
Designing for the company was a challenge , as it was important to understand their manufacturing and creative process, to stick it to history of the brand, to brand’s costumers, the materials and components used, and trends in dancing shoes. The brief was set up trough the presentation at Leicester college and was clear and well informed and there was no need to keep in touch with the company and most of the work was independent.
During the designing i felt there were creative restrictions as the shoes were made of similar materials, and a few designs that were similar to each other and there was no space for own creativity and incorporating new trends and re-modernizing the product. However, designing dancing shoes was a valuable experience contributing to my development, and i learnt new skills that i might use in a future career when designing for similar brand and feel confident about new gained experience.
One of the challenges was a time- management and self-discipline in order to manage time between college, independent study and other work. This has taught me the importance of professional manners when co-operating with a company and to make a plan carefully to meet the deadline. Therefore, i made a plan with orginizing the work for each day for 10 weeks and at the end of the day i wrote what was done and what had to be done in next few days. At the beginning, it the researching stage i was uncertain how it will end up, but as time progressed and work developed further, i gained a confidence and enjoyed the working process of each stage. The researching stage took about three days , subsequently the desigin work took 10 hours a week, drawing flat sketches took additional 8 hours a week, all together a 72 hours.
I am not sure if my work will be valued for this company, but it definitely helped me to build a portfolio and my skills might be valuable for other dancing shoe company. I felt i had a great support from the company in terms of clear brief on presentation day, and a fantastic experience when visiting a factory and got insight of the company working process. i also appreciated the availability of management through emails, and i felt valued by the individual approach of the staff to us and that we were treated as a potential employee. The only problem i had to overcome was a time management and self-discipline to independent work.
My role in this company as a shoe designer was to re-vamp a ballroom dancing shoes trough developing the portfolio with a last 4 or 5 pieces, select the final design, this design develops in spec sheet for a manufacturing process, produce a pattern for the design and make sure it fits the last, and that last is production meets the requirement. I have learned a new skills in dancing shoes manufacturing, the materials and different kind of leather and fabric, i also learnt about strength and weakness of company . During the designing process i have applied my knowledge which i gained in a college and researching when writing this blog. For example i was aware of the importance of knowing brand’s custumer profiles, what custumers expect from the brand, and what is happening in society and how these changes are reflected in current trends. The economic situation, demography, technical development, globalization, architecture, art, celebrities, movies, all these things one has to think about in order to keep sales up. Thanks to classes in college, i have gained skills in designing, drawing flats, spec sheet, graphic work in CAD and shoe making and engeneering program which i have used when working on the project. By knowing a processes of shoemaking from the workshop it was much easier to design a realistic and wearable shoes.
Maintaining a contacts with people in the fashion industry is very important as in these days it is not about what you know but who you know. One of the best ways to keep in contact with people is trough social sites, blog posts, write in forums about the same interest, and get a valuable feedback from people or advice of experienced people. I try always to be polite and socialize with them and maintain a good reputation. They might also become a custumers or co-workers one day.
My new found strength is an ability to design various types of shoes from high street to couture, produce a clear technical drawings, make a saleble shoes liked by people, to spot a new trends in fashion , marketing knowledge and building an own brand. My discovered weakness was a self-discipline, low accuracy in making a patterns or clicking and stitching and missing talent in hand shoe making in the work shop. However, i believe that with a time and experience this weakness could be improved. Besides shoe making;-)
The course gave me a basic knowledge and skills that are necessary for finding a work placement , helped me to build a portfolio , gave me a confidence and believe in my work and i am going to continue to pursue my career as a footwear designer and perhaps establish my shoe brand with ladies shoes, or to do a freelance work and create shoes for celebrities and other costumers. What the course taught me is that even a talent isn’t enough to succeed in this highly comepetive area , that in fact, is a minimum requirement. Many people have talent but other personal qualities like hard work, strategic thinking, ability to work in a team and being a humble person eager to learn is most important.
If i could take my time back and to change things that i could do differently, then it would be a wiser time-management, better focus on college work, more independent study and gain a deeper knowledge in all the subjects.