Footwear Technologist Career Information
What a Footwear Technologist does
There are various categories of footwear - those made from leather, synthetic material and other fibers. Since all humans differ in their sizes and tastes, shoe manufacturer needs to keep in mind different needs and wants - shoes for men, women, children, formal shoes, casual shoes, trekking shoes, sports shoes and so on. As you can imagine, the list of different styles of shoes is endless.
In India, we have both the organized and unorganized sector in the shoe manufacturing industry. In the organized sector shoe manufactures use sophisticated machinery and skilled manpower. Here shoe manufacturing is a highly mechanized process. This sector comes under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce, which has set up institutes to help expand footwear production and export.
On the other hand we have the unorganized sector like the village sector where the work is handled by the state level artisans. They form a part of the Khadi and Village Industries Cooperatives.
There are also other players in the private sector that deal with the production and export of footwear, in collaboration with international contacts.
The functions carried out in a footwear industry can be classified into:
Designing: This is purely for the creative brains. It involves creating new styles and patterns, of footwear. The job of footwear designers today has gone high tech as they use computer aided design systems to churn out beautiful footwear. If footwear designers had their way and dress the feet in their creations, we'd be looking at people's feet rather then at their faces. Footwear designer are faced with the constant challenge of coming up with new styles to adorn our feet.
Manufacturing: After the design comes the actual process of making the footwear. It has become a mechanized process where skilled technicians are required to operate the machines. If you happen to work for a sports shoe manufacturer like Nike or Reebok your main task will be to design shoes for the competitive athlete.
Marketing: Here you'll be involved in selling various types of shoes to the various retail outlets. Knowledge of the domestic and international market will hold you in good stead. You will also be involved in organizing shoe fairs and exhibitions in and around India. Marketing managers generally work with advertising agencies to work out marketing strategies.
After completing your course you can either apply for a job with shoe houses or do projects with them. As this can give you considerable amount of working knowledge it is always good to begin by taking on projects with footwear manufacturers. If designing is what you want to pursue, you could approach a garment designer with samples of your works. In this way you could do collections on a small scale for designers.
If you have the infrastructure and capital, then you could also open a small unit of your own and supply to retail stores. Nowadays Internet is becoming a favourite shopping mall for many. You can also display pictures of your collection on the Net, which will enable sales.
Footwear designing may not have created ripples in the career field the way IT or Biotechnology have. But it is a field that is slowly catching up. With the boom in the fashion industry, footwear designing is becoming a popular career choice.
A number of international footwear companies have also stepped in. "There is a lot of scope in the field of footwear designing. People just need to be made more aware of it," says Prem Pal, Director of the Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI).
Earlier, a career in the field of footwear designing was unheard of in India. "We have always looked to the West when it came to fashion. The fashion capital of footwear has always been Italy," says Sadiq Mohammed, a scientist with Central Leather Research Institute of India (CLRI). "India had always been in the backyard as far as footwear designing went. The designs were imported. But that has changed and now buyers look upon us to design and manufacture the shoes," he says.
There is tremendous amount of scope for this industry as the Ministry of Commerce continues to place emphasis on it. About 20-30 per cent growth is expected in the coming years, which translates into career opportunities for many.
Export industry is also picking up and is planning to reach 400 million pairs in the next few years! The investment cost being low, a number of private units are also being established. Students, on the individual level, are given support from the institutes such as the FDDI, in the form of loans given on merit. Therefore, those interested in this field should definitely pursue it as the Footwear Industry certainly holds a good future
Abilities & Traits Required
If your work involves designing footwear then it goes without saying that you need to be creative. "As a designer, I am constantly noticing things that inspire creative thoughts. During one of my visits to Japan, I was inspired by this organic building that contrasted all the other conventional homes in the neighborhood. For the Air Fantaposite Max, I was particularly interested in how different shapes and patterns can wrap around 360 degrees to form a unique 3-D structure," says Matt Holmes, Nike Footwear Designer.
Though it is not mandatory for footwear designers to be involved in the production part of it, technical knowledge can sure be an added advantage. It's always good to know the different components that go into the making of the shoes. It gives you the insight you need when it comes to designing.
There is a lot of hard work involved if you want to make a career out of it. Recognition comes very hard, once you have made your presence felt in the field. You got to be passionate about your work along with the ability to experiment. Precision is one of the most important factors in footwear designing. While designing footwear the designer has to keep the prospective buyer in mind. Unlike designing a piece of garment, which can be altered later according to the specifications of the buyer, a pair of sandals cannot be amended later on. So you have to be extra careful.
All aspiring footwear designers must also keep themselves abreast of the latest happenings in the field. Finally the west is taking note of the footwear industry in India and that is good news for all aspiring footwear technologists. Today our designs are selling well in the international market. So knowing the developments in the industry helps.
Being computer savvy is an added qualification because most footwear technology courses are computer aided. Use of CAD (Computer Aided Design) in footwear designing has made it much easier. And thanks to the Internet, today you can send a design to any part of the world.
To make an entry in to this field you need to go for a course in footwear technology or designing right after your Class 12. Some certificate and short-term courses require only a Class 10. There are various courses that you can choose from, depending on your interest. The duration of the courses can vary from 12 weeks to four years. You can opt for a Diploma in footwear designing or even choose to do BE Footwear Technology or BTech Footwear Technology.
The National Institute of Design, Paldi, Ahmedabad offers courses both after 10+2 and graduation.
After 10+2 NID offers Graduate Diploma Programmes of four-year duration. Eligibility is 10+2. The Institute conducts an entrance examination consisting of a test and interview. Competence in technical and related subjects is normally considered an advantage. Upper age limit for candidates is 22 years (for SC/ST candidates the age limit is relax able by 3 years). Candidates with higher qualifications are also eligible to apply.
Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI) also offers courses in Footwear technology.
Starting salaries for designers of all kinds will be in the range of Rs 30000 – Rs 40000 per month. However if you are from a good institute you can expect a few more thousands in your initial salary packet. After that as you progress in your profession, the salary will be proportionate to the kind of work that you can churn out. It's not unheard of about dedicated designers earning around Rs 70000-80000 per month after being in the industry for a few years.