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FDRA Design Summit Speakers Discuss the Role of the Designer

From left to right: Chris Bellamy, Kostika Spaho, Pete Lankford, Nicoline van Enter.

Nicoline van Enter, founder of The Footwearists, believes the industry’s push for “faster and faster” is lessening the importance of ideation in the shoe industry. She offered a myriad of opinions at a gathering of nearly 100 footwear designers and line managers in midtown Manhattan last week during a Footwear Design Summit hosted by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America and her organization, a Netherlands-based innovation and education platform for footwear professionals.

Van Enter, while urging footwear companies to train their senior people in 3-D software, pointed to a current trend where some shoe firms are hiring gaming designers to do the same work for new footwear because they are “fast and know 3-D software,” despite their lack of footwear industry knowledge.

“You want 3-D printing to empower innovation,” she added, suggesting a combination of 3-D capabilities and pragmatic factory/sourcing knowledge is the ideal combination for development. “We need to stop designing shoes and design the systems that design shoes.”

She firmly believes design ideation and digital visualization need to be kept separate.

Chris Bellamy, a senior engineer for product development and manufacturing for Wiivv, which produces custom-made insoles and sandals, told attendees that the firm with its San Diego closed-loop manufacturing facility introduces a new design weekly.

“We’re not material scientists, but durability is the biggest benefit we bring,” said Bellamy.

Footwear industry veteran Pete Lankford, design lead for Timberland and design director for the brand’s Earthkeepers line, stressed the importance of simplicity in the footwear design and development process.

“Moving beyond the boundaries of traditional design, nimble wins over efficient,” offered the Summit’s keynote speaker. “Customer responsiveness will deliver better results than efficient mass production. Look to nature and history for clever (design) solution that can be applied to new situations.”