The adventures and musings of an aspiring shoe designer

Going Off Track

As I prepared for my second trip to the factory beyond all the other business details I was working on Mary and I defined what needed to be accomplished.  Looking back this is where I started going off the track that I am now trying to get back on.  As I said before she had helped launch a couple of lines and had been in the business in various roles for thirty years.  As much as I know now it was a mistake to blindly take her advice 100% I don’t know that I made any major errors in judgement based on knowledge available at the time. 

Her last position was with Taryn Rose and I think maybe she steered me to ideas that were very close in nature to what Taryn had done;  ie comfort and all.  Not that there is anything wrong with the comfort aspect and I still intend on using what I learned but, that is not where my focus lies currently. 

As I see it now one of the biggest mistakes I made at this time was to listen to her advice regarding the first collection.  I had all these “red carpet” type drawings and she pretty much squashed that. Telling me that you can’t run a company on red carpet looks that the market  for those type of looks won’t sustain a company.  That in order to be successful I would need to come up with bread and butter shoes, the staple pieces that every women needs in her closet. That these are the pieces that keep a company in business and that I need to develop a foundation for the line and once I have my “classic” or “staple” looks that I could then add the fun more playful designs. 

Her reasoning was that because I was creating a brand I would need to have the base and this base would become the foundation for all my future collections.  I should just re-cover the classics with new materials and once I made some profit then I could work in my designs. I talked to her a great deal about this and finally she convinced me that this was the way to begin.  My task was to decide if you only had Ventrano shoes in your closet what would you need.  What I came up with was; 

  1. Ballet flat –  J last
  2. d’ Orsay cut ballet flat – J Last
  3. Open and closed toe wedge (this last could also be used for the kitten heel in future collections) – M Last
  4. Pump and peep toe pump – A  Last
  5. Loafer pump –  A  Last
  6. Loafer flat  – E Last
  7. High heel platform sandal thick heel – A Last 
  8. Stiletto heel sandal – A Last
  9. T-strap sandal – A Last
  10.  Bootie – A Last
  11. Open toe bootie – A Last
  12. Knee high boot – A Last and M – Last
  13. Loafer platform with thick heel – A Last

I’ve listed the last these shoes were to be developed on because in order for me to explain the story and the problems I ran into you’ll need to understand the last situation.  When you develop a last you are basically developing the shape and heel height of the shoe.  Each last that you develop also needs an outsole and an insole (also called midsole)  to match it and a heel to fit perfectly.  All of these things I had to custom make not only to match my last but to match the specifications (such as the rubber insert for the leather sole).  These are very costly and this is where I spent a bulk of my money.  I am working on a manual of shoemaking (see categories) that I will add to as time permits, obviously I am learning myself but, I will share what I’ve learned thus far.

I don’t know that she was wrong completely because she had launched other lines at a different time in retail or if it was just wrong because she never truly grasped what my goal was.  As it turns out for me and for the timing of the launch she was dead wrong.  I ended up attempting to launch in July/August of 2010 and the ideas we were working from were developed in October thru December 08. What became very clear in my marketing efforts was that stores did not want to see the classics, that they were not interested in a new brand that has nothing but the staples. There were many other issues but this was a hurdle that just couldn’t be overcome or at least one that I wasn’t willing to attempt to overcome.  I heard many times that there just wasn’t anything that stands out in the line, nothing that they couldn’t live without. 

Most people were nice and wouldn’t come right out and say it and some who I am forever grateful to, were very honest.  In fact it was one of these honest people, some might call her rude but not me, woke me up and caused me to pull the plug on this line, this factory and….stop the train.


Comments on: "Going Off Track" (2)

  1. Really true I almost make same mistake but fortunately I same time rude enough to think than I do not need advice
    from other people also if they have more experience.

    A lot of this kind of people suggest me to stay with classic
    shoes oxford and derby. But than I think, why somebody need buy my classic oxford when He can find same shoes on store close home? For this reason I just do the opposite of expert suggest. A collection full of whole-cut shoes and just one or two classic oxford per season.

    And now my client start wearing whole-cut shoes also with blue-jeans.


    • Vittorio it’s so hard to know what advice to take and what to ignore, I have made mistakes in both directions but either way you learn. I love your whole cut shoes, in fact I could do a post about them and link to your website as I know truly how beautiful they are and the quality level is top notch. I think you chose right and I hope that it pays off in major ways.
      Have a nice day

      Kathy Jo

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