Stuart Weitzman is one of the most famous shoemakers in the world. More
than just a household name, you will find his shoes in the closets of famous
celebrities around the world. From his legendary “Million Dollar Shoe”, to the Nudist heels you can spot on
any red carpet, the brand is a fan favourite. Known for its quality, comfort,
and flattering silhouettes, the brand has become iconic.
In my semester abroad at the Wharton School, I was lucky enough to have a
chat with Stuart Weitzman. His passion for design, coupled with his desire to
innovate within the footwear industry, positions him as one of the most
irreplaceable members of the industry.
Although he spoke of many ideas that he attributes his success to, these two stand out:
1. Be different.
It takes a lot to get a company off the ground. Especially in the
footwear industry, it is often difficult for newcomers to earn their place
and compete against companies like Chanel and Gucci. In my
conversation with Stuart, he spoke of his company’s “tipping point”.
Early on in his business, Stuart realized that he wanted his shoes to be
known around the world but did not have enough money to market the
shoes internationally. He realized that to catch people’s attention
internationally, not only did his shoes have to be different, but his
marketing had to be different too. That is when the idea of the “Million
Dollar Shoe” was created. In collaboration with a diamond company,
his “Million Dollar Shoe” was encrusted with 464 diamonds and an 18-
carat diamond in the center. The shoe was worn by Laura Harring to
the 2002 Academy Awards. The shoe was not only seen by the 400
million viewers for the Academy Awards, but it was also seen by
viewers of more than 500 news outlets where a picture of Harring
wearing the shoes was published. This shoe singlehandedly put Stuart
Weitzman on the map. Even though people around the world did not
know of all of Stuart Weitzman’s products, they at least knew what the
brand was, and had positive association with the brand.
2. Run your business like a family.
From the inception of his company, Stuart emphasized the concept of family. Contrary to the stereotype of a large company, Stuart always tried to keep his business processes intimate and friendly. He spoke of times where he singlehandedly wrote personal notes and put them on all his employees’ desks for Valentine’s Day. He attributes much of his company’s success to the fact that his employees were especially
committed to him, and the brand, as a result. He continuously
reinforced the notion that all employees had a seat at the table with
him. Extending beyond just his employees, Stuart spread this friendly
culture to his business partnerships, as well. He noted that while
working with Gigi Hadid, she mentioned that her sister, Bella Hadid,
would always steal her Stuart Weitzman shoes because she loved them
so much. Ever since this comment, Stuart stated that whichever shoes
he made for Gigi, he would also make a pair for Bella. It is really these
little acts of kindness towards your employees and partners that make
all the difference.
Despite having sold the Stuart Weitzman business to Coach, the shoe brand continues to bear his name. Even after retirement, he continues to be one of the biggest names in the shoe wear industry and it does not seem like he is leaving anytime soon