Designer finds working on shoes is a good fit
How to bring a fresh spin to a plain, white canvas sneaker? This was one of footwear designer Julie Rando’s biggest challenges a decade ago when trying to help revitalize a classic shoe made by Keds. “I kept going back to the drawing board, playing with the nuances of the product and pushing enough so it was different, but not enough to scare away the loyal canvas oxford customers,’’ said Rando, of Lexington, an independent consultant for companies such as Clarks, Ryka, and New Balance.
Rando, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, began her career as a lamp designer but was lured to footwear 15 years ago when she saw an ad looking for a shoe designer.
She didn’t get that job, but she decided to leave lighting to create athletic footwear such as running shoes, inline skates, and basketball sneakers - and later, lifestyle, casual, and dress shoes.
“It’s easy to design a $500 shoe where you can use the nicest leathers, constructions, and ornaments,’’ said Rando. “It’s a greater challenge to design a $49.99 shoe while your labor and leather prices are going up.’’
What do you do that most people wouldn’t think would be involved in shoe design?
You really need to have technical ability, including understanding how to work with factories in China. When I was designing lamps, one of best lessons I learned was that if you send a cracked lamp overseas, they will copy it exactly, down to the crack, even if you didn’t want it there.
What is the process of making a shoe?
After settling on a design, I send a technical drawing to the factory which makes a mock prototype, then creates a first mold to make a sales sample for a small production run, maybe 90 pairs, to bring to trade shows. If response is good, the shoe will make the line.
Do you wear shoes you design?
Yes I do, but the sample size is usually size 6, and I’m size 9, so trial shoes usually don’t fit. It’s a good thing, or my shoe collection would be triple the size it currently is. Manufacturers always test the shoe with a small size, because smaller shoes are cuter.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Only about 50 pairs, because I don’t have a lot of closet space. It’s kind of ironic - as much as I love shoes, I’m actually more of a handbag addict.