Coco Chanel is her hero and she describes the Diana Ferrari and Supersoft showroom as a temple, such is the love of fashion and footwear of Product Development Manager Sharon Teuma. With more than 20 years’ experience in design, Sharon explains below just how important it is to achieve fashion, function and fit with every shoe. And occasionally how “Christmas trees” result!
Q. Please briefly describe your journey to your current role as Product Development Manager with Diana Ferrari and Supersoft.
Sharon: My background has always revolved around design, which started for me in apparel and accessories. I then moved into footwear and later to interiors. I love renovating houses as my hobby. My experience spans 20 years, across all facets of footwear including athletic, kids, ladies comfort and fashion, plus work and safety footwear, kids footwear and ladies comfort and fashion.
Q: Is there a common misconception about your work or job? Now’s your chance to set things straight!
Sharon: A lot of people think that designing footwear is like designing apparel; it’s not! It’s actually very technical due to all of the components and tooling requirements like lasts and moulds. Fit and function are very important. You need to have a good understanding of numbers too. You need to be commercial because the tooling investment is expensive. Three things I drill into our design team is that a shoe must be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but good design needs to incorporate FIT & FUNCTION too, otherwise the design is not, what I call ‘good design’.
Q: Describe your office or where you do most of your work.
Sharon: We have an open plan space, very communal which is great from a manager’s perspective. It allows for a lot of dialogue and conversation. Creativity happens everywhere; we never stop thinking about design, however we have a dedicated space called the ‘Paradise Room’ where we work.
Our showroom is our temple. This is where we pay homage to our ranges for the season. I would love consumers to get a sneak peak at what we do! As you can appreciate not all styles and colours make it to retail, but we love them all and they look amazing.
Q: How many people work for you and briefly what are their roles?
Sharon: Our design team incorporates our planning and technical team. I have eight people reporting to me (this does not include the factory technical teams!). We have our senior team with many years of experience. They own the DF heritage and are passing this knowledge on to the junior members of our team who bring new and exciting ideas to the table.
We have a very talented team, who all work together to achieve one outcome. We describe our design process like a relay race…no one works in isolation, we work as a team!
Sharon: Hmm, that would give away trade secrets! Well, there are essentially four key areas: Concept, Preproduction, Production and Post Production.
We have a process that starts with a review of the previous season. We document our key learnings so that we can improve for the following season. This includes customer and consumer feedback. We monitor our competitors in the market place.
We monitor global trends and determine new looks or technology that may be relevant to our brands.
From this stems our range architecture plan, which starts to emerge and evolve through the design process, from first thoughts, to more solid ideas to actualised styles.
We start with the colour palate first, as we need to develop leathers. Then we look at the constructions to make sure we have a balanced offering. Then we look at the upper patterns to make sure we are not duplicating and that each style has an end use. Then we look at pricing structure which is all done in conjunction with our sales and marketing team. We consult with our customers for feedback.
Then we start preparing for production, which is quite in-depth. We fit and wear test every style before it goes to production. We also plan and carry stock of selected lines. Not many suppliers will do this in today’s market.
This is a quick summary of what we do. It’s far more involved than this and too long to document here!
Q: Any interesting places you’ve been or things you’ve seen that have inspired a particular shoe?
Sharon: We are exposed to markets all over the world. I travel a lot and I have a tendency towards the exotic, but I love classic timeless design. Italy, Paris, Spain and Brazil will always be key for inspiration in footwear, but we gather ideas from all over the globe and our inspiration comes from many different avenues in many different forms.
Q: What is the hardest thing about designing shoes?
Sharon: The hardest thing can be trying to visualise the image you are trying to create when doing colour ups. One wrong colour can be a disaster. We don’t always get them 100% right. You have to have some room for creativity and trial and error. We call our mistakes our ‘Christmas trees’; they would look great as a decoration but not on the foot! J Also, trying to predict possible production issues with designs, up front.
Q: Why do you think many brands stop at size 10?
Sharon: A lot of brands buy their tooling “off the shelf”. This means they just use what the factory has. Most factories will only put in tooling for the minimum requirement of sizes to keep costs down.
At Diana Ferrari, we own and develop all of our own tooling, but it comes at a cost. We put in tooling for size 12s based on where we feel it is needed in the market, and in particular on key constructions. You will see more size 12s across both Supersoft and Diana Ferrari. We also run selected styles up to a size 13 as well.
Sharon: Both Diana Ferrari and Supersoft offer on-trend stying, quality craftsmanship and fit. They are well made and robust. They won’t fall apart after a few wears.
diana ferrari is our fashion brand, it’s “wearable wow” and offers contemporary designs that fit the different lifestyle needs of our customers. diana ferrari’s reputation has been built on providing quality footwear that is elegant and feminine.
diana ferrari is a brand of choice for the modern woman who seeks stylish yet classic designs.
Supersoft is our comfort brand. We are proud to be one of Australia’s leading and most trusted comfort brands. We are constantly pioneering new comfort technologies and product designs. Supersoft offers customers styles they can wear all day long that offer superior comfort, but don’t compromise on style.
Q: What are your other loves and hobbies outside of work?
Sharon: I love design, so I focus on interior design as my main hobby. My daughters and I are horse lovers, so we have a property with horses. I love Yoga; this is my mental and physical outlet.
Q: Who is your hero and why?
Sharon: Coco Chanel. Need I say more? She is an inspiration to all women.
Q: What is your favourite:
Movie? Tough one…I am fond of French Films. Betty Blue was the first French film I ever saw and I still love it to this day. The colour and the sound track are brilliant even though it’s a tragic love story. My favourite animate is Spirited Away and Ponyo.
Colour? Love black and white.
Food? I’m a Taurus, so I love all food, the more exotic, the better! My senses come alive. I can’t eat something that is not pleasing to the eye, so smell and presentation are important to me.
Sharon: This is Harry, otherwise known as ‘Dirty Harry’ because he loves to dig!
He is a Westie and the love of my life :-).