A lot goes into a single pair of shoes.

There’s design, prototyping, sampling, tweaking, more sampling, and finally, production. But every style originates with a sketch.

A former designer for some of the world’s leading athletic brands, Justin Schneider’s passion for footwear and design led him to found Wolf & Shepherd. Since then, he’s been the creative force behind our shoes. At W&S headquarters we get front-row seats to this process on a pretty regular basis, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm for seeing magic in the works. We sat down with Justin for a full rundown of his design process.

Where does the design process begin?
The process always starts with identifying a need. That need can be rooted in functionality, style, or wanting a shoe for a certain occasion-- like work or a wedding.

How do you decide on a new style?
Right now because our team is small, we have the ability to be nimble and keep our conversations organic. We might hear from our customer experience team that there’s an opportunity-- that customers are asking for a type of shoe that’s lacking in their wardrobe, and in our current collection. We also keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on globally, style-wise.

From there, we do some research about how we can innovate. We are constantly looking at materials and construction processes that will allow us to create shoes that look and feel amazing.

What’s next in the conceptualization process?
We gather inspiration and create mood boards, piecing together swatches of materials, photos of shoe styles and lifestyle imagery that inform not just what the product will look like, but the feeling it will evoke. We think about the story we want to tell with the product.

Tell us about sketching.
I’ve drawn enough shoes by now to be able to pull directly from my memory bank when I first begin sketching a silhouette, but I’ll often look at reference materials.

When I’m designing, I’m thinking very technically about the way that the shoes will be constructed. Because we’re blending fashion and function, it’s important to think through the aesthetics of a product as well as its utility and comfort features. I usually think about those technical aspects first, and then I think about the on-brand design elements I can build out to create a beautiful product.

Watch Justin's design process.