With the global footwear market projected to hit $440 billion by 2026, industry experts are betting on prospective new design talent. A new program aims to help them build brands from the ground up.
Online education platform Yellowbrick and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Center for Continuing and Professional Studies have teamed up with industry publication Footwear News on a venture to help guide the next generation of shoe aficionados. The Footwear Business Foundations program will teach select students about what drives a company’s success, focusing on the skills needed to jumpstart their businesses.
The platform was created to bolster Yellowbrick’s existing Sneaker Essentials program, also co-created with FIT, which has gained popularity with aspiring sneaker designers and brand owners. Footwear Business Foundations will focus on entrepreneurship in the footwear production process or simply carving out careers in the industry at large.
Designed to allow students to learn at their own pace, more than 15 hours’ worth of course materials and instruction—delivered by FIT faculty, Yellowbrick, and Footwear News’ hand-picked industry experts—will live on an online portal. Contributors to that programming will include Footwear News parent Fairchild Media’s chief brand officer, Michael Atmore, as well as FIT assistant chair of footwear and accessories design, Sarah Mullins, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America president and CEO Matt Priest, shoe designers Sam Edelman, Jessica Rich, Sarah Flint, Lisa Cronin-Arida, and more.
Five modules representing different aspects of the footwear business will be offered, including “Footwear Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship,” wherein students will learn about business models, along with diversity and inclusion and “Managing Footwear Production,” a crash course on product development, sourcing, costing, manufacturer communications and industry-specific software.
“Branding” touches on the principles of packaging and digital brand applications, “Marketing Strategies” offers a deep dive into the differences between wholesale and direct-to-consumer engagement, public relations, SEO and communication with shoppers, and finally, “Retailing and Distribution” explores the topics of merchandising strategy, industry events, retail technology and e-commerce. Students will be expected to complete a final footwear project to include in their portfolio.
The success of the Sneaker Essentials program, which launched in 2018, underscored a need for an expanded program, Daniel M. Gerger, director of FIT’s Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, said. “Since we first launched Sneaker Essentials with Yellowbrick, the fervor around the footwear industry has only continued to grow,” he added. “We saw a need for a program that would go deeper into the production and business-building aspects of the industry.”
According to the groups’ research, the U.S. footwear market alone is currently worth more than $105 billion—just over 27 percent of footwear sales globally. Onshore demand bodes well for newcomers to the space who wish to build their own brands or join existing companies.
“Our publication has been dedicated to informing our readers about the industry at large and the latest in footwear news for over 75 years,” Atmore said. Through the new program Footwear News will leverage its staff’s “extensive knowledge and close industry contacts to educate and inspire learners.”
“The result is a compelling program that will explore the industry with a focus on business, production, and entrepreneurship,” Rob Kingyens, president and CEO of Yellowbrick, added.