How to manufacture shoes

Last weekend I found a great footwear industry, shoe development and design blog called First Pullover. I don’t like the name because it’s too arcane. If you’re not already in the footwear industry, you have no idea that the first prototype shoe is called “first pullover” so I think the name unnecessarily limits the number of visitors this site should attract. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have loyal visitors, he does, but I would have sent people there a long time ago if his blog had been popping up on google searches for “footwear design” or “shoe product development”. Still, the site is sufficiently technical and unique that I stuck him in my lower left side bar under fashion blogs (I need to rename that heading myself) but I named his link “Footwear Design” with the hope that it will attract people interested in the technical side of shoe design because several of you keep asking about shoe manufacturing. Speaking of, his site is loaded with all kinds of technical illustrations and spec sheets (click the images on his site for full size versions ).

Another option would be to view his Coroflot portfolio or download his mini portfolio from his personal website. If you want to manufacture shoes, I’d think following his examples for detail and formatting is mandatory.

Before I started kvetching, I was saying this is a great blog and it is. Our host is Richard Kuchinsky and he’s a product manager and designer of football (soccer) shoes for hummel International, currently residing in Denmark (I think he’s Canadian). His blog covers all phases of footwear design and development from design, forecasting, and line planning to sample and pattern development and production in Asia. Apparently, his isn’t an apologist for his industry either, saying that

i am a sneakerhead, but i am also an observer of the industry from the inside… i look at things from a different perspective. limited edition means that there are not enough preorders to justify a larger production run. exclusive colorway is an SMU. a collaboration is marketing breakthrough (wtf!)….the world of sneakers and footwear design has entered an era of new found appreciated and collective conciousness. unfortunately i feel that most of what passes today for “new” and “special” is nothing [but] overplayed, overmarketed, overpriced examples target[ed] towards the unthinking collector with too much money and not enough original thoughts.

Even if you’re not intending to get into shoe production, there’s an incredible world to explore. Richard has photographed factory shoe-making in many stages. The site is difficult to navigate -even the archive dates are enigmatic- so if you want to tour the shoe making process in order, read this post and follow the supplied links. Another item of interest is that hummel International is reportedly a lean manufacturer. Still, some batch processing is unavoidable in the needle trades. Below is a photo of batch processing. I thought it was cute! Imagine, one bundle fitting into that tiny little tub! I suppose that is true of any small sewn product item but I’m so used to making larger items I don’t think of it.

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  1. Miracle says:

    Ah, Kathleen, I like the name! Although it is not self explanatory, it definitely sticks in your memory and is very brandable once you’ve heard of it.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I have a great idea for a shoe insert. I have a business background and law degree, but no experience in fashion. Do you have any suggestions or referrals for anyone that can help me with manufacturing, marketing, etc?

  3. jamie costello says:

    Hi my name is Jamie Costello, I am currently in the begininn stages of developing a luxury womens shoe line. But I’m from america. So I feel its a little hard to find someone to create my first couple of samples so I can shop the line around. Is there anything you can tell me to point me in the right direction to getting it off the ground. Thank you so much. Regards, Jamie C.

  4. tenzin says:

    hi Kathleen.
    I am Tenzin Choklang,(sorry about my english) i ma only 16 years old and i also live in Canada and I was interest in making ma own show with a ma own brand, It was few mounts a go and my brother and i were doodling on peace of paper and I some how drew a shoe with a unique look mixture of Nike air force. Then after while i make a better sketch in ma class and starts passing around to see if other like it or not. It seems 90% of my class liked it. so now here i m searching how to manufacture shoes.
    But i have no idea where and how do i manufacture shoe. And also what industry need to make my shoe all i have is a sketch of a shoe(I dont know what to do feather then this)

  5. robert stewart says:

    shoes are incorrectly engineered; I have been working on re-engineering shoes for 3 and a half years now and am planning on manufacturing shoes on a large scale say in the bilions because I am positive that once every one wears a pair of shoes that are built correctly that they will only want shoes that are built by someone who cares about thier well being that is when it comes to their feet,balance and plan is to start with walking and running shoes then build work shoes and then make men and women dress shoes. I am presently searching for the investors to pursue this ventureand if u have any avenues for me to reach this goal it will be most apritiated.

  6. EJ says:

    Hello, Kathleen. I have designed a line of men’s and women’s beach sandals and am trying to find a manufacturer. As my line is focused on utilizing sustainable materials I am finding it difficult to find the right manufacturer for this venture. Can you suggest where I can begin?
    Thank you!

  7. Karolina says:

    Dear Kathleen,

    I would appreciate any advice you can give me on how to find internships for manufacturing shoes paid or unpaid in the Atlanta area. I am looking to learn from a person who is producing or building customized shoes for their own clientel. My main goal is to learn as much as possible. I don´t have a background in fashion or design but plenty of ideas.

    Thank You

  8. Muriel Colvard says:

    Dear Kathleen,

    I am in the process of opening up a boutique offering shoes and clothes designed by me. However, I need to know how I can have my designs brought to life. Can you suggest a company will make the shoes that I design? If you could point me in the right direction, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You,

  9. Peggy Leffler says:

    I too have the same questions as everyone else, I need a shoe company that will make my shoes. I also need help to go in the right direction. I am going crosseyed searching the net for answers!!!!!!!! Please Help if you can. Thank You so much, Peggy

  10. kathleen says:

    To everyone, I don’t provide this kind of information in the publicly accessible area of this site. We only do this in our forum. It is a long story why -explained in many of the other entries. Shoes have a lot in common with every other product made with a sewing machine so it would be helpful to read other entries to find this out and much more. Good luck!

  11. Dorothy Ferguson says:

    I have a great shoe design idea and I would like to know how to get in contact with someone who might like to buy my idea. Could you help me with some advice to get started to find a company who might be interested, please.

  12. claudette Batson says:

    Dear Kathleen
    I have a great shoe design idea i am looking forward to be on the market, but i don’t know how to start could you help me with some ideas, every time is see a new shoe i always look to see if my design is out but so far no, can you help?

  13. Estanisla says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I came across your blog after looking up “how to manufacture shoes” in the search bar.

    I am a young strong woman who is interested in making luxury shoes for men. Mostly working with leather for my line but open to using various textiles. I’m working on a business plan for kickstarter and I don’t know where to start. Do you have any advice in terms of understanding the manufacturing process?

    I’m new to the game certainly but this has been a dream of my for as long as I can remember. I could use a mentor in this process and someone I can refer to when asking questions.

    Thank you!

  14. Avatar photo

    Do you have any advice in terms of understanding the manufacturing process?

    Yes, I wrote a book called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing. To see if it would help you, read Will your book help with non-fashion items? and also read the comments.

    I’m new to the game certainly but this has been a dream of my for as long as I can remember. I could use a mentor in this process and someone I can refer to when asking questions.

    Read: Fashion mentors: free & good advice to start a clothing line to optimize your chances of finding someone who can help you. Otherwise you can join the forum and get free peer mentoring. Here’s more on how to sign up.

  15. Jaqwon Jefferson says:

    Hello Kathleen,

    I have a few bids out to manufacturers right now but I am wondering if you would be able to recommend some manufacturers who make boots, pumps, wedges and sandals? Landing price, quality, dependability, and service are of the utmost importance. Any recommendations you could give would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  16. Trae Brown says:

    Hello my name is Trae Brown and I am sitting on about 5 different shoe designs. They are unique and will open up the shoe world on a whole new scale..just trying to figure out how to get started..can you help with that??

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