Footwear plays a significant role in enhancing the overall appearance – it has great impact in the field of fashion. It symbolizes not only one’s fashion statement, but also personal taste as well as sense of comfort.
The overall increase in the demand for accessories, has led to a rapid growth in the number of companies including some international players dealing with footwear production and export in India. The country ranks second among the footwear-producing nations. Besides being a fashion statement, footwear has also become a matter of health and comfort.
Designing footwear requires a blend of artistic talent and creativity. Footwear technology has come a long way from traditional shoemakers cutting and stitching leather, to specialized professionals utilizing modern technology, working at high tech laboratories, on sophisticated machines, experimenting with a varied range of materials from leather, plastic, canvas, jute, rubber and even cloth.
Footwear Designers create new styles of footwear, keeping in mind the popular demand in the markets and also the demands of individual clients. They also design footwear collections for leading footwear companies. Patterns are made and grade by them, according to which companies produce samples. Computer aided design (CAD) systems have now made the entire process mechanized.
The footwear industry has a range of jobs and skils comprising of research and development, design, manufacturing operations, sales and marketing, quality control and management.
While designers design the product, experienced technicians are required to operate the machines for manufacturing the product. Marketing involves retail buying and selling of products to the various retail channels.
To begin a career in the field, one must have at least a Diploma or a Certificate qualification in footwear design/leather technology. However, for high positions, candidates must possess advanced qualifications such as graduation, post graduation or doctoral degree in footwear designing and leather technology.
Eligibility and Course Areas
There are different courses in this field i.e. certificate, diploma, graduate and postgraduate diploma. Advanced diploma course in footwear technology require the candidate to be a graduate in any stream or diploma holder in leather, engineering or Footwear technology. However, footwear technology courses offered as B.Tech/M.Tech program are only open to science/engineering students.
Admission to most of these courses is made through entrance examinations.
Duration of graduate courses such as B.Tech is generally 4 years, and for postgraduate or M.Tech program it is 2 years. Several certificate and diploma courses are also offered by private institutes in this field and the program duration varies from 6 months to 1 year depending upon the type of the course. Eligibility for undergraduate/diploma courses in footwear manufacturing technology, shoe making or design, is a pass in 10+2 level.
Job Prospects and Career Options
Footwear designing technology is a lucrative career option and it is an important area of fashion. Career opportunities are growing for qualified footwear designers and leather technologists, major reason being the high growth of the consumption level of the latest leather products and footwear over the years.
This surge in demand is mainly because of the high fashion consciousness of the customers as well as the wide media exposure in this field. The profession has become challenging as it blends the sensitivity of a designer and the artisan capabilities of the cobbler.
The footwear industry has a range of jobs in areas comprising of research and development, design, manufacturing operations, sales and marketing – retail and wholesale, quality control and management.
Career opportunities are available for qualified professionals, with multinationals that are active in the field of leather production, product development, processing and designing, as well as with leather research centers, footwear designing institutes, footwear production units, sports shoe manufacturers, in the Orthopedics market – designing specialist shoes for private clients, fashion houses and other similar industries. They could work as footwear designers – as seniors or assistants, footwear buyers, fashion trend analysts, footwear technicians, footwear line builders, production coordinators and managers, marketing managers, etc.
Once you establish yourself as a reliable designer you could freelance and earn handsomely or you can join any leading brands and go up in the ladder and reach top position in the company. Major employers in this field are Bata, Action shoes, Flex, Liberty Group, Woodland, Lee Cooper, etc.
Designers are needed to design the products according to latest trends. As designers one could specialize in one area such as women’s, children’s or sports footwear. Experienced technicians are required to operate the machines for manufacturing the product and marketing involves retail buying and selling. Marketing managers have to decide on marketing policies such as organizing shoe fairs and exhibitions.
Job Prospects of Footwear Designers
- Liaison with fashion, accessory and clothing designers to interpret the requirements regarding footwear
- Design any specific type of footwear such as high-end fashion shoes, boots, sandals, sports shoes, custom footwear, casual and formal footwear
- Prepare sketches (scaled drawings) or computer designs (CAD) to create a model of the shoe and its key features
- Specify textures and materials for the footwear
- Make presentations to the production team
- Supervise the manufactured product for quality and durability
- Carry out market research for new styles and new materials
- Study trends of retail buyers and attend fashion events
- Work on feedback from the sales team
- Aesthetic interest
- Skill in using Computer Aided Design program
- Eye for detail
- Keen eye for color
- Knowledge of foot anatomy and kinesiology engineering
- Good sketching skills
- Ingenuity and practical bent of mind
- Knowledge of textures
- Awareness of global footwear fashion trends