So You Want to Be a Shoe Designer? Here Are 5 Places to Kickstart Your Career

From traditional education in school to industry apprenticeships, there are several ways for aspiring shoe designers to break into footwear. While there is still work to be done to address diversity and inclusivity across all areas of fashion, many programs are available now to help empower and foster shoemakers of all levels.

Read on below for five places that can help creators kickstart their careers.

Pensole Footwear Academy
Students at the Pensole Footwear Academy founded by D’Wayne Edwards.
CREDIT: Pensole Footwear Academy

Arsutoria School Shoe Design Course

The 4-week course at Arsutoria School in Milan is targeted for students seeking a short yet intensive program that can teach and refine their creative skills from concept to production. For a more immersive experience, students can opt to take classes in conjunction with Arsutoria’s 12-week pattern making program.

FFANY has also partnered with the school since 2015 to offer its Joseph C. Moore scholarship. The scholarship pays for full tuition, accommodation and airfare for one senior student each year.

More information: arsutoriaschool.com

Scholarship information: ffany.org

Pensole Footwear Design Academy

Founded by D’Wyane Edwards, this hands-on training program based in Portland, Oregon is one of the leading initiatives for crafting tomorrow’s shoe leaders. Edwards, who initially had limited resources breaking into the industry, created the program in order to help bring more educational options to emerging designers. Courses are run on a “learn by doing” curriculum taught across four different studios.

More information: pensole.com

British Footwear Association Apprenticeships

In order to meet the demands of its growing shoe exports, the British footwear industry recently launched a nationally accredited apprenticeship program in manufacturing based in Northamptonshire, England. According to BFA Chief Executive John Saunders in a press release, “International interest in British made footwear has possibly never been higher. This is particularly true for the premium bench and hand-made shoes, of the type made in Northamptonshire and the West End.” The association has developed an apprenticeship standard with the help of brands including New Balance, Church, Dr Martens, International Dance Shoes and more.

More information: britishfootwearassociation.co.uk

Women In The Footwear Industry (WIFI)

Two Ten’s WIFI initiative empowers women in the industry through mentoring, events and relationship building activities. WIFI currently includes nine chapters across the country, with over 4,000 members total. Specifically, its year-long mentoring program matches matches seasoned footwear professionals with mentees of varying levels in order to foster growth.

More information: twoten.org

Brooklyn Shoe Space

This co-working space is specifically for shoemakers and leather workers and offers a range of classes in its Brooklyn, N.Y. studio location. Courses include a sneaker class, a mule and slide workshop, a stiletto class, baby shoes and more. There are various “Studio Pass” options including hourly up to weeknights plus weekends, as well as longer membership plans for $500/month.

More information: brooklynshoespace.com

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