It's never too early to make industry connections and no one knows this better than eighth grade student Darian. The aspiring footwear designer from Endeavour Middle School in Lancaster, CA, with the help of his teacher, Kristine Hunter, reached out to FIDM Regional Director of Career Development, Kevin Keele, to find out who could interview on the subject. Kevin had the perfect footwear designer in mind and put them in touch with FIDM Grad Chris Munar, a designer at Nike, who willingly answered Darian's questions about his career and the industry.
Darian: Why did you choose this job/career?
Chris Munar: I’ve played basketball all my life and in sixth grade I really started to get into sneakers especially the ones that my favorite NBA players played in. Sneakers and fashion started to become more relevant to me over the years and I really started paying attention to trends and my freshman year in high school I found out footwear design could be an actual profession. Once I knew that I knew I wanted to be a designer/creator of some sort.
Darian: What do you do in a typical day?
Chris Munar: Specifically my title is “material designer for footwear,” so currently my job is to concept storytelling for shoes while selecting or developing all the materials that go on the shoes in my category. With that said, every day is a little different—there are always new tasks to complete. Usually I’m constantly checking sneaker and fashion blogs or trend forecasting websites just to see what’s currently out and trending in the market. This allows me to stay relevant with what’s going on in sneaker/fashion culture. Now depending on my workload most of my time spent is building concepts and story around the shoes we’re working and that includes building storyboards with imagery or physical objects to help sell our concepts. Once that is approved, my time is spent finding the appropriate materials for each shoe.
Darian: What education and/or training did you need for this job/career?
Chris Munar: I worked in retail selling shoes at Sports Chalet for six years before and I really learned a lot about customers and footwear technology, which really helped me to this day. I attended FIDM for the sole fact that they offer a Footwear Design Program so my goal going into school was to get accepted into that program. Any type of design school or background will help you in pursuing this career. Even designing or customizing your own things in your spare time will help boost your creativity, which helps in the long run.
Darian: How long have you been working this job/career?
Chris Munar: I’ve been in my current role at Nike for six months now; I just started this position back in September of last year. Overall I have been in the footwear industry doing design work for about six years now.
Darian: What do you like best about your job/career?
Chris Munar: Working for Nike was my dream and my goal once I got into the footwear industry so that in itself of one of the things I love about my career. The fact that Nike touches and impacts the world through sports and fashion is awesome and knowing that I’m working on product that can play into the progression of sports and fashion is an amazing feeling. Knowing that people will wear things that I’ve created or designed is one of the best things about my job.
Darian: What do you like least about your job/career?
Chris Munar: Honestly there’s nothing I dislike about my job/career, I’m excited to go to work every day and work on footwear. There’s nothing else I could ask for.
Darian: What advice would you give me right now knowing that I’m interested in a job/career like yours?
Chris Munar: As an 8th grader you’ve got plenty of time to get things sorted out and prepare yourself. I would recommend taking art classes as your electives whether it’s drawing, sewing, or graphic design. And take them seriously so you can enhance your skills. Draw or concept ideas on your own time if you can, incorporate footwear design into any school projects or papers that it can apply to. Footwear design is a growing profession so find what makes you unique and different from everyone else and use it to your advantage. My last piece of advice would be to network/make connections with people as much as you can; you never know who will be able to help you out in the long run or whom you can learn from. Good luck to you and don’t stop being creative!