Shoes were invented to protect the feet only. Our distant ancestors living in cold regions wore animal skin shoes that also covered the calves. And those who live in warmer regions rolled palm leaves under their feet. Like most things, shoe design has come a long way since then. We wear dress shoes or oxfords for formal events, boots or stilettos for less formal occasions, sneakers for exercise, and pumps or sneakers for casual gatherings. So we have a shoe for every occasion.
Although shoe designers are in high demand, it is difficult to break into the industry without formal education. This is why, as an aspiring shoe designer, you should enroll in a formal shoe design program. Very few colleges or universities offer full-fledged shoe design programs. You can consider clothing design or fashion design programs that cover shoe design in depth.
The best shoe design colleges in the USA are:
- The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
FIDM’s Footwear Design program is part of the Fashion Design program. You will learn everything you need to know about the shoe industry, from shoe design and manufacturing to business strategy, during the year you invest in the program. You will learn how to integrate creativity with technical skills to create shoe collections that will become a trend in national and global markets. You can easily grasp the vast knowledge that the program instructors share with you. You also have the opportunity to learn and network with geniuses from top fashion brands such as Just Fab, Sam Edelman, Seychelles, Skechers, Sbicca, Steve Madden and TOMS. Many graduates have been hired by these companies while others have launched their own shoe collections.
- Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA)
PNCA has partnered with PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy to launch its first program focused on shoemaking called Design Intensive. You can take one of three tracks in this intensive program: Color and Materials Design, Footwear Design, and Functional Clothing and Accessories Design. You will learn the complete design process from conceptualization to development as part of shoe design. Thus, you will gain in-depth knowledge of the entire shoe design process through the hands-on program. Experts from some of the best shoe brands will be part of the process to guide and mentor you on your journey to creating extraordinary shoe designs. You will be delighted to know that the founder of PENSOLE, D’Wayne Edwards, is one of these experts!
- Woodbury University
Woodbury University is one of the universities on this list that does not offer a program solely dedicated to shoe design. But you will learn a lot about shoe design by pursuing its fashion design program. In this program, you will be able to explore niche segments of the apparel industry, including women’s denim, footwear, lingerie, and hats. Woodbury University has strong ties with several top brands such as BCBG, Kenneth Cole, Komarov and Max Mara. Through these associations, you can intern at some of the most prestigious fashion brands in the United States. Woodbury students designed outfits for members of the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra. The university has established many such links with neighboring businesses, making it easier for students to find jobs. This alone makes Woodburn University an excellent choice for an aspiring shoe design professional. This further adds to the reputation of the university’s fashion design program.
- The Institute of Fashion Technology
FIT offers a bachelor’s degree in prop design and related programs that last a year or two. Although these programs don’t focus on shoe design, you can learn a lot while earning a degree. As part of the program, you will be able to visit design studios and production facilities in one of the world’s leading fashion destination hubs, New York City. You can intern at top brands such as Brown Show, Kenneth Cole, and Nine West. You can also work on group projects and enter contests. Its certificate program in Performance Sports Shoes relates only to the design of shoes, although of a sports type. You will be able to learn in detail the four essential components of shoe design, namely ergonomics, materials, sketches and drafting.
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