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Day in the Work Life: Shoe designer

Marketplace Staff Jun 26, 2009

Day in the Work Life: Shoe designer

Marketplace Staff Jun 26, 2009


TESS VIGELAND: This week U.S. Customs officials revealed they’d seized more than 10,000 of counterfeit Nike sneakers from a shipping container at the Port of Los Angeles. The haul was valued around $400,000. But if they’d been the real thing, it would have been more like $2 million. The value of any shoe comes from its designer.

On this week’s a Day in the Work Life, we click our heels to hear from one of them.

Katherine Kerrigan: I’m Katherine Kerrigan and I’m a shoe designer.

I’m six feet tall and I wear a shoe size 11. And I design women’s shoes in sizes 6 to 15.

As a teenager, my experience was, I visited about six regional malls to find one pair of prom shoes. That continued into finding shoes for my first job interview, finding shoes for formal events and it’s always been an issue.

In college, I actually studied pre-law and kind of bailed out at the last minute. And I thought, “I’ll go to business school.”

And as a final project, I had to put together a business plan based around a niche market. So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to find out why, at six feet tall, I cannot find cute shoes for size 11 feet.

I really thought I would just do research and come to some conclusion and get out of business school, so I can get on with my life. I interviewed 400 tall women and I became so passionate about designing shoes. I knew at that point that I had to keep going with it, I had to find out more, I had to just get more involved in the footwear industry.

It kind of is a step-by-step process. I sit and sketch a couple times each week or whenever I’m kind of inspired or whenever something really kind of comes to me. And I do all the design work and I go over to our factories in Italy and Spain and I pick out leathers and materials and I determine the toe shape and heel height.

Kerrigan: [Talking about one of her shoes] Now this is a beautiful shoe. This is our “Josephina” booty that we made in a special red shimmery color. It’s gorgeous and it’s a must-have.

I can go out and I can design a million pairs of shoes that I love, that are totally impractical and that no one will ever purchase.

That was really the explanation of my first year in business. I would make all these funky designs that I thought were so different and they’re not on the marketplace. And I didn’t have any sales. So it’s been hard to not dumb them down, but kind of make them more appropriate for the mass market.

As a fashion design and as a shoe designer, industry standard, you’ll probably make at least $40,000 to $50,000 per year.

What makes me feel good is when we have customers calling us or e-mailing us, saying, “Katherine, I’m 50 years old and I wear a size 13 shoe and I’ve never found cute, feminine shoes.” And they’re practically on the verge of tears and it’s very emotional for women. Because if you don’t feel the way you want to feel or dress the way you want to dress, you kind of feel like something’s off. And that’s what makes me feel good.

At the end of the day, it’s not money, it’s giving women the opportunity to feel and look good and feel confident.

Vigeland: That was shoe designer Katherine Kerrigan. A Day in the Work Life was reported by Erin Scott.

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