Head of design and sales at Kathryn Wilson Footwear, Julia Ford was born and raised in Auckland. She always knew she wanted to work in fashion, and has been designing her own imaginary clothing and accessories line since she was old enough to hold a pencil.

“My family doesn’t have a history in fashion but my grandparents were creative and I was often shipped out to their place when I was little. They’d set up an ‘art camp’ where they’d have me copying Monets and oil-painting landscapes,” she said.

After school, Ford studied visual arts at Auckland University of Technology. While there she began working for a clothing designer who suggested she do a short fashion course to gain necessary pattern-making and sewing skills. Ford completed the diploma course at New Zealand Fashion Tech as well as a graphic design diploma at Media Design School, so she had experience with CAD and Creative Suites.

“While I didn’t study footwear design in particular, having an understanding of how the fashion industry operates, having knowledge of fabric, sewing and pattern construction and graphic design are all valuable skills when it comes to my job. A great attitude and passion for the industry are also essential.”

At the moment, Ford is travelling around the country with the SS16 collections, showing them to buyers. Next she’ll be meeting with suppliers in Asia, visiting Kathryn Wilson’s production houses there and researching trends before starting to design the AW17 collections in May.

“Every day is different for me and there are many different tasks that come under the head of design and sales role.”

She said the skills most necessary for her work are a willingness to get stuck into any project or area of the business, and “a passion for creating beautiful shoes!”

“My job has taught me countless lessons about how this business works. Designing for an existing customer base is key, being in tune with what they want to be wearing, and knowing what works with their sense of style.”

She attributes success at such a young age to having a goal and a clear idea about what she wants to be doing, and then focusing on making it happen.

“Avoid taking side-steps if they are irrelevant to where you want to be. Also, surrounding yourself with people who can inspire you on your journey,” she said.

In the future, Ford would love to keep designing great ranges of footwear and accessories and hopefully find new and interesting challenges within the industry.