A designer at the heart and sole of fantasy shoes
When it comes to avant garde shoes one designer comes to mind, Stuart Weitzman, known for his creatively crafted shoes fashioned from an array of materials ranging from cork and vinyl to lucite and gold. Jane Weitzman – his wife and former Vice President of Stuart Weitzman Retail – has created “Art & Sole” showcasing 150 fantasy shoes that were once featured in the Madison Avenue store. The fabric covered book is embellished with a cutout of a crystal embellished shoe on the cover and has gold gilded bordering on the pages. It’s chock full of shoes curated by Ms. Weitzman from designs resembling taxicabs to a piece reminiscent of the ruby red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” with monikers like ‘Pretty In the City’ by Robert Tabor (below) and ‘Ruby Two-Shoes’ by Ann Johnson.
I recently caught up with Jane Weitzman to discuss Art & Sole and her inspiration for the book:
What motivated you to create Art & Sole? I had used these shoes in a store window for many years and when we stopped doing it after we sold part of our company, people just kept asking about them. It was amazing to me that five years later, six years later, they were asking “What happened to the shoes, why aren’t you doing it anymore?” So I thought, maybe this is a good way to raise money for charity.
What charities benefited from Art & Sole? When the book came out in September … the books that we sold in the store, Weitzman stores – all of the profits went to ovarian cancer research and in the month of October, all the profits went to breast cancer research.
The book is dedicated to your husband Stuart Weitzman. Did he help select the shoes? I did show him everything, but he didn’t really help me choose the images, he helped with naming some of them.
How did you go about naming the shoes? Some of them had names that the artist gave them … some of them were very clever. There’s one by an artist named Nina Bentley. That shoe is called ‘A Woman’s Platform’ and of course it’s a political shoe, if you look at the shoe. It’s a woman speaking from a podium with flags. We’re very much in favor of women’s rights. We love the name that she gave it.
If you could turn fantasy into reality, which shoe from Art & Sole would you want to wear? That’s a very good question. One of the white paper shoes. (‘Fence Me In’ by Anthony Rosiello, below)
What is your all time favorite Stuart Weitzman shoes? Two shoes: any plain high-heel pump and the toes vary from season to season, sometimes they’re round, sometimes they’re pointed; and also the 5050 boot, which is so comfortable you can just wear it form morning to night. There’s different versions – it’s the one shoe made for twenty years now.
What do you believe sets them apart from other luxury brands? They fit really well and they’re comfortable. Stuart really knows how to construct a shoe. He use to cut his own patterns on our dining room table … it’s like architecture for shoes. It’s not enough for them to be beautiful, they really have to fit well.
Speaking of comfort, what should we look for when investing in a quality pair of shoes? I think you have to really walk around the store with the shoes and get a feel. If someone tells you “don’t worry they stretch or don’t worry this will happen” – if you know the sales person and you have faith in them that’s one thing – but if a stranger tells you “oh this is going to happen or that’s going to happen,” I would be very careful because a shoe should be reasonably comfortable in the store. If you wear that shoe at home, I think also you have to wear pantyhose or something with the shoe when you first wear it. To just put on a pump barefoot is very bad for your feet. To break the shoe in, you really need to wear it in the house and stretch it a little bit first.
If you could help create a fantasy shoe inspired by anyone past or present, who would it be and why? I think it would be great to do a fantasy shoe for Cinderella. She couldn’t possibly have worn a glass shoe, it would have killed her! In the original fairytale the shoe was fur, but we don’t want to do that nowadays. So I think it would be great to create a new Cinderella shoe – it would be comfortable and beautiful.