Nine West and Footwear News are one step closer to finding out who will be fashion’s next big shoe designer.

The accessories firm and the weekly business newspaper joined forces in November with the Fashion Institute of Technology to launch the first Shoe Star contest, in which students will compete in a “Project Runway” kind of shoe design challenges, risking elimination at each step.

This story first appeared in the January 30, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Monday, Michael Atmore, editorial director of FN, unveiled the seven finalists who will advance in the competition, which culminates at the Fashion Footwear Association of New York trade show in June with the naming of the winner. FN is a sister paper of WWD.

In November, the preliminary group of 16 FIT seniors each submitted a sample shoe, various sketches and a 150-word essay explaining why they should be a contestant. Since then, the seven finalists were determined by Atmore and his editorial team and will now compete in the “sketch challenge,” where they will sketch a red carpet shoe, as well as a sneaker, a boot and one “wild card” design.

Each of the next six entries will be judged at the Nine West design studio in New York — the next judging — and elimination is slated for Feb. 6. Judges include Nine West creative director Fred Allard, professor and chair of FIT’s Accessories Design Program Ellen Goldstein and Atmore. Guest celebrity judge Giuseppe Zanotti will join the group for the next challenge only and a rotating celebrity judge in the design and retail industry will be on hand for each subsequent challenge.

According to Allard, the contestants will be judged based on “creativity, originality, innovation, new techniques and how the students express their point of view.”

The Shoe Star winner will receive a full-time job for one year at Nine West as an assistant designer, as well as a feature story in FN. Second- and third-place contestants will receive cash prizes.

The competition will be documented in blog format with video coverage on and in every issue of FN and on

Allard expects the students will learn “a true sense of what really goes into designing a shoe, not only conceptually but technically, as well. There will also be the pressure of deadlines and production and the students will have to be prepared for positive feedback and the possibility of criticism.”

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