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