Modeled after Project Runway, the FN Shoe Star contest - sponsored by Footwear News (FN), Nine West, and NYC's Fashion Institute of Technology - is looking for fresh footwear design talent. Over the six months of the contest, seven finalists (six chicks and a lone fella) are being videotaped competing in six challenges which eliminate one contestant each round. The last (wo)man standing will be crowned the winner at the Fashion Footwear Association of New York tradeshow in June, given a job at Nine West to work on the Spring 2009 footwear, handbags and accessories collection, and a feature in Footwear News.
In addition to creating the addictive drama of Project Runway (but thankfully without much of the juvenile cattiness and focusing more on what constitutes good design), the contest also has an admirable agenda. "Where is all the new design talent? It's a question I'm often asked," notes FN's editorial director, Michael Atmore, who is one of the industry pros on the judging panel, along with Nine West creative director Fred Allard, and FIT professor and chairperson of the Accessories Design Program, Ellen Goldstein. "While the ready-to-wear industry does a pretty good job of pushing new designers, the shoe world is often criticized for failing to cultivate rising stars. The situation has bothered me (and many others in the industry) for a long time. Over the years, there have been efforts to rectify the situation, but nothing has really moved the needle...With FN Shoe Star, we hope to send a message to budding shoe designers everywhere: This is a glamorous, exciting and important career worth pursuing."
Currently, the field has been whittled down to four thanks to the Sketching Challenge (an evening shoe, sandal or flat, fantasy/wild card shoe, boot and an essay describing the inspiration), guest-judged by Guiseppe Zanotti; the Green Challenge to make a shoe using sustainable materials & guest-judged by Stuart Weitzman; and the Runway Challenge to create a day shoe & evening shoe to complement runway looks designed by guest judges Mark Badgley & James Mischka.
- Lesley Scott