So You Want to Start a Footwear Brand?.... 10 Tips to Get You Going.


Full-service strategic, design is kinda our thing. So it comes as no surprise that we get a lot of inquires from Start Ups.

In fact, over the 11 years we've been in business, we've probably worked on more projects that involve start-up brands than anything else. At the same time, I can confidently say that probably 9.5 out of 10 project inquiries from Start Ups go nowhere.


Our integrated approach brand positioning to identity design, product design, development, graphics, packaging and marketing works great for Start Ups.... IF you are ready to get going!

Here's 10 Tips to take into consideration before you send us that first email -

1. Know the process. Have a look around our website and Work. Download our Studio & Services Guide. There's lots of information about how we work, what services we offer and what we can (and can't) do. If you are familiar with how the footwear design and development process works, getting going is much easier.

2. Be prepared. To get information you have to give information. With your inquiry, we suggest you send us as much information as possible to help determine if we can help and/or if it's a project we want to get involved with. A simple checklist includes information about-

  • Drawings, or sketches (if any) of the design direction
  • Financial Plan and budgets
  • Any patent or IP info
  • Suppliers
  • Schedule
  • Status

3. Know your business. Anyone can come up with ideas. If you plan on starting a brand and making a business out of it, you should have a Business Plan that outlines how you plan to take your idea to market. We can help dial in specifics and build brands from the ground up, but you should have an idea of What you want to sell, Who you are selling to, How you are going to make money and How much you are going to need to spend to make and sell you product.



4. Understand how we work. As a full service consultancy we specialize in everything from start to finish-

  • Strategy & Branding
  • Design & Development
  • Graphics & Marketing

The way we work means that you- the Start Up, benefit from the synergy of an integrated process. It also means we are more likely to take on your project the more we can be involved. If you are just looking for a few drawings for your patent, that's not something we would get involved with. Most Start Up projects involve at least 4 of the 6 services above.

5. Know "What You Know, and What You Don't Know". You may be early stage and have a lot of unknowns but you should have a pretty good handle on what information or deliverables you need to move forward. If you are making an inquiry, be as specific as possible. Asking "do you make shoes" isn't that helpful. Are you looking for design? Development? A supplier? We can help determine the exact nature of work that may be required, but it helps if you know somewhat what you are looking for.

6. Do your research. Does your idea exist already? You'd be surprised how often we get "great new ideas" that aren't really new at all....



7. Have your partners ready. We do a lot, but not everything. If you are looking to jump into development and sampling, you will need to bring your own supplier. Sourcing is not something we offer for Start Ups due to the risk to both Start Up and Supplier. We can help evaluate a nominated supplier and provide a Sourcing Overview document to solicit potential factories, but you need to find them. That also goes for financial partners, investment services, legal, etc.

8. Respect our time. As professionals, we are happy to take and respond to most inquiries without charging assessment fees, but we typically try to keep the exchange pretty brief. If we can't determine what you are looking for and how we might be able to help from a few emails, we aren't going to take a 30 minute call just to chat.

9. Be ready to talk money. Starting a footwear brand takes money. Lots of it. Depending on the brand, type of footwear and process, it can easily take $500-800,000USD or more to go from concept to production including branding, design, development, production and marketing. This is not all needed at once, and is more than just our fees but have these numbers in mind and an idea where the capital investment will come from if you are at seed investor stage and looking to move forward.


10. Be realistic. Be early. The earlier you come to us, the better (as long as you are prepared - see above). But being realistic in your timing and expectations is key. No, we aren't able to build a brand, design some shoes and production finished in 3 months. The typical lead-time from Brand Development to On The Shelf for a Start Up is anywhere from 1-2 years. Before we start designing any product, we insist on having a solid foundation in place. This means brand and product strategy, design briefs, research and positioning.


For lots more info, be sure to read our FAQ documents-

FAQ - The Directive Collective

What we do, how we do it, and who we do it for.

FAQ - Entrepreneur Concept - "I Want to Start a Footwear Brand - Now What?"

So you want to start a footwear brand...


If you have a Start Up and are looking to get going working with The Directive Collective, please feel free to reach out.


Does Being an Expert Make a Better Designer?

With over 18 years of Footwear Design experience, I've designed products for almost every category you can think of. Basketball, Training, Sandals, Kids, Court, Outdoor, Running, Soccer, Lifestyle... you name it.


As an experienced, professional footwear designer, one of my main tasks is to quickly assess and understand a product category. With a well-crafted Design Management process, including in-depth research, trend forecasting, consumer insights, and a well-written Design Brief, any type of product can be targeted for design.


That being said, it is often the question if experience or expertise in a product category or sport can lead to a better design?

The answer is yes. And no.

I'm a runner. I currently run 6 days a week, approximately 90km (56mi) total and am training for my 7th marathon in the fall with hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At peak I hit almost 700km in a month, running 7 days a week, every single day for more than a year. I've raced everything from 5k to marathons, across 7+ different countries... In that time, as you can imagine, I've clocked a lot of miles in running shoes.

Credit  Jess Baumung  for Canadian Running

Credit Jess Baumung for Canadian Running

It's one thing to design a running shoe, research running shoes, or even cut up running shoe samples, and another to run 74km on a very long run (Toronto to Hamilton), over 12+ hours in the middle of summer heat.... or know how a shoe feels running through a foot of snow in -30C. At some point you get to know every single stitch and piece of rubber on that shoe.

So does that make me a better running shoe designer? I'd have to say yes. I know how materials breathe and wear. What it feels like to lace up or unlace a shoe. How a midsole feel changes from being fresh out of the box to 400km used. The difference between how a shoe feels on a long run vs. 400m interval session and race day. I run with other runners and one thing all runners talk about is shoes. "What are you wearing? What do think? Have you tried the new...?"

But here's the thing- there's also value in sometimes not knowing much at all.

Long before I ran my first (slow and difficult) kilometer, I was designing running shoes. I built the brand platform, identity and designed the first few seasons of SKORA performance running without being a runner. (True fact- designing for SKORA turned me into a runner!)

Built upon the momentum of the minimal running category and performance interest in natural running, my outside perspective was an asset. Challenging the status quo, SKORA was founded on principles of doing things differently. A new philosophy in positioning, business management, marketing and product.

Not "knowing" running, I was able to leverage my experience in other footwear categories to craft design that borrowed lifestyle element from sneakers, leather materials from soccer shoes and graphics and branding from consumer tech companies. SKORA products didn't look like traditional running shoes, because they were not designed with the knowledge of how traditional running shoes were made.


While Footwear Director at hummel International A/S I brought this same cross-category thinking philosophy to performance football (soccer) footwear. Far from an expert in soccer (I played maybe 3 games in rec league when I was 5), I was able to mix lifestyle elements and a new visual approach with technology and performance from other product categories to create a signature look for the brand.

(At Right, the 2007 hummel 8.4 PIO, nominated for a Volvo Sport Design Award)

Thanks to this new, "outsider" approach, hummel was able to gain recognition, sales and critical acclaim from athletes, fans and the press and position itself to compete against more traditional larger brands established in the highly competitive European football footwear market.


So... what is the best approach? It depends. Either way, the foundation of our design approach is based on 18+ years experience in design. More than anything, cross category design is our speciality and mixing materials, performance stories and aesthetics from one category to another built upon a solid brand foundation and design DNA document is always a win win.

Contact us today to see how we can help design the right product for your brand.








Footwear Design vs. Development. Do You Know The Difference?

Do you know the difference between Footwear Design and Development?

Deciding what services your brand or project needs is the first step and our initial interaction with potential clients is often in advising and recommending the correct process and deliverables long before any creative work is commissioned.


Footwear design is the creative endeavor of designing a shoe - both from a visual and technical aspect. Once a solid design brief has been created (see Design Management for more on this) , an iterative design process is followed moving from a variety of looser sketches to a tighter final design, rendering or specification depending on the project needs.

Some wrongly believe that this is the end of the footwear creation process and all that needs to happen is to deliver this final design to a willing factory to and "start production" or "make samples".

This is almost never the case.

The end of the design process is in fact the start of the development process.

Before a supplier can even begin development, a detailed conversation will need to take place to cover important issues of costing, tooling, manufacturing capabilities and MOQs (minimum order quantities) as well development costs and schedule.

From here, (if everything is ready to start such as needed last development, size grading, etc.) the factory may begin the development process, interpreting the final design specification.


For upper design and development, this involves the creation of a First Pullover sample. From this initial pullover, we then review the samples, and provide detailed notes, comments and pattern corrections to the factory to best ensure consistency with design intent, addressing visual as well as technical and performance issues. This process continues with several rounds of samples until the pattern is confirmed, at which time colorway samples and then made, reviewed and remade until all colors and materials are also confirmed along with required artwork, graphics and details. It is not uncommon to go through 3 to 6 or more rounds of samples before final product confirmation.

For outsole design and development, this process starts typically with a re-issue of the 2D tech drawing based on manufacturing and last specifications. We then review this drawing, provide comments and corrections and then repeat the process until 2D is confirmed, a 3D drawing is likewise confirmed and a wooden or 3D printed outsole model is created and meets all technical and visual standards for the project.

Depending on the project, factory, timeline and budget the development process can typically take anywhere from 1-6 months and many (many!) rounds of samples, 2D drawings, 3D drawings, wooden models, 3D prints and more.

Not before this development process is done however is the footwear design ultimately realized, even just for a visual or weartest sample.