5 Things I’ve Learned From Designing My Own Sneakers

Designing/developing for other brands is something I’m blessed to do on a daily basis. It’s mostly interesting, but I have to be completely honest, what I really love is executing my own ideas and products and designing for my own brands/collaborations (under my ‘MrBailey‘ moniker). When I’m designing under MrB, it’s personal. I’m trying to create something tangible that represents myself and my friends’ ideals and what I genuinely am interested in, rather than just what a specific brand’s audience would be into.

Collaborations are incredibly interesting, because it’s a true combination of placing my taste and personality into a design and pushing the brand I’m collaborating with into new areas, all while trying to not alienate their current fan base. It’s a process of creating products that are palatable, yet forward thinking and detail oriented. Initially creating shoes that may at first look similar to what’s currently¬†offered by the brand, yet at closer inspection have interesting design details that separate them and fulfill my personal designer indulgences. Of-course this mind-set varies depending on the brand you’re collaborating with, and how prepared they are to push the boundaries of what they offer.

Whether designing my own products, or collaborating with brands, it’s always a super interesting learning experience. So with all that said, these are 5 Things I’ve Learned From Designing My Own Sneakers (there’s plenty more, but I’ll save those for part II).



1. Trust Yourself

Seems obvious, but in a world connected via social media, blogs (this blog included) and everything else in between, it’s so easy to see what’s being done by others and following along, because you’ve seen that it’s worked for someone else. The ‘trust’ I’m talking about, is having trust in your ideas, your interests and tastes, what you honestly think is cool, and not what you’re supposed to think is.

This isn’t me saying you should blindly believe in your ideas and not listen to anyone else’s opinion. Quite the contrary. Share your ideas with the right people and 9 times out of 10, they’ll become a lot better. The trick is knowing the right people to share these ideas with, and then having the balls to follow through on them.


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2. Balance

Sustainability is important. I’m not talking about eco friendly materials (I’ll touch on that in second), I’m talking about surviving in the industry for a decent period of time and sustaining yourself. To do this, you have to learn how to fulfill your strong urges to have something different, wonderful and unique, and also combine that with having something that will actually sell and put money in your pocket. I don’t care how wonderful your design looks, if it doesn’t sell, or if you don’t offer something else that does in conjunction with that, you won’t be around for long.

The real tricky part of being a good designer is staying true to your ideas, but also understanding the market and how to offer something different, but still palatable for a consumer that is often less then welcoming when it comes to anything too new and daring (unless Kanye wears it).



3. Sustainability is Important

Caring about where your products are made and who’s making them is your responsibility. The impact you have on others (the workers making the shoes, your customers, etc…) is on you. Care about what materials you’re using, care about the factory conditions, the impact you’re having, etc…Basically try to care about as much as you possibly can, because at the end of the day that shoe has your name/brand on it and you have a responsibility for what it represents.



4. In-Person is Best

Something that can take 50 emails to communicate can be handled in literally 30 seconds when you actually go to the factories and meet with the pattern makers, factory agents, etc…in person. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go to these places, see the people making your shoes, take in the local culture, etc…Being there while the factory makes your samples, discussing them with the sample department in real-time, might completely alter the way you produce a shoe and could ultimately be the difference between having a hit product, or a flop.



5. Don’t Rush, Execute

When you’re holding absolute heat, it’s so easy to want to rush and get it out as soon as possible. One of the most important aspects in a product succeeding in general, is timing. Planning the release, making sure everything is on-point; the quality of the product, the packaging, the marketing – is what really matters.

Sometimes…well, a lot of the time in footwear tbh, things don’t go as planned. There are so many factors and people involved in shoe production that there’s bound to be a cock up or delay at some point that could dramatically effect your product. Dealing with these issues, knowing when to push and knowing when to take a step back, is only something you can learn after being in the industry for while. What you can do though, right from the beginning, is to try and respond to these issues with as much positivity as possible, not to rush, and to not settle for a sub-par product.

Don’t let people or factories try to fuck you about either, have conviction in the execution of your product.

Of-course not everyone has the luxury of time, sometimes you just gotta get that ish out, asap. However, if you’re able to, take your time and execute. I’m not saying you should wait for everything to be perfect, because it never will be, but don’t ever rush something at the expense of quality.



Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks | www.MrBailey.co.uk

Join the conversation

  • HeydayFootwearCEO - 5 years ago

    All great points that I can personally attest to Mr. Bailey.


  • Quitin’ Notta Option - 5 years ago

    GREAT article!