FitFlop’s men’s designer and product line manager on balancing creativity with commerciality.
My brand new wife – I just got married a month ago – wakes me up every morning at 7am. I knock back an espresso and then cycle from our home in Shoreditch to the FitFlop offices in southwest London. It only takes an hour and is a great way to fit exercise in. Plus, it takes the same time as the District line, and if I’m late I can just cycle a bit faster.
I get ready at work – the dress code is relaxed. I normally wear FitFlop as it’s useful to try the shoes I design. Then I grab another coffee and start checking my emails – because our factories are in the Far East, I can still catch them in the morning. Sometimes, I’ll even come in early so we can have meetings in video conference.
Periodically, I get in touch with our distributors for feedback on current sales per style and colour, market requirements, suggested retail prices from which I can determine factory prices, opinion on key colours, materials, silhouettes. These are the basis for the range plan.
It’s important to look at trend websites such as WGSN, Fish & Chic, The Sartorialist, and Co Create, and I drag all of the images I like onto my desktop.
I’ve also been preparing for our design camp. It consists of a week offsite, where we put our ideas together on a given theme and decide the colours and materials for the next range.
My days involve lots of sketching. I use many different representation techniques: hand drawing, Pantone, Illustrator, Photoshop, 3D software. I’m currently working on the spring 14 men’s collection. I also have weekly meetings with my product director.
The whole business follows a critical path, so there are key meetings and we all have ownership for certain areas of the cycle. In the development of a new collection, the first key meeting is for presenting and reviewing the sketches, the second one will be about the rough prototypes, the third will be looking at refined prototypes, and the final one will be about the finished collection. During this process, we always keep a close eye on the range plan, to make sure we are going in the right direction. Between these meetings I travel to the factories to oversee development of the shoes.
The final collections are then presented at our sales conference, which is attended by our main distributors from 52 countries over a two-day period, where I introduce the men’s collection. I love it because you get an instant reaction to what you’ve been working on, and you get to find out what’s been selling in distributors’ countries. They give a forecast of what they’d like to order, and go home with their own set of samples and a clear understanding of the collection, before coming back with actual numbers.
The role of a designer requires a lot of creativity, balanced with a commercial eye. And the skill of a product line manager is to keep the collection tight, consistent, and with a strong vision.
In my evenings I love to cook, play music, read, or go out in east London where I live. There’s so much to see and get inspired by.
- Salaries for this position range from £40,000 to £50,000 (estimate provided by Michael Page Design and Development)
2012 Men’s product line manager and designer, FitFlop
2010 Designer, FitFlop
2008 Designer, Peter Black (FitFlop and other brands)
2007 Designer, Shoe Design and Trade
2003 Junior designer, DM Designer
2003 Graduated BA Hons in Industrial Design, IUAV University, Venice, Italy