Luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman talks about his “road less traveled”

On November 16, the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council hosted Stuart Weitzman, the founder of the luxury shoe brand bearing his name, to talk about his entrepreneurial journey or, in his words, “the road less travelled”.

Weitzman is an alumnus of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and has designed for celebrities such as Aretha Franklin, Diablo Cody and Laura Harring during his career. He talked about his experience taking risks, getting started in the industry and giving back with his shoes.

Weitzman presented his story as rooted in one principle: risk.

He described another artist, Andy Warhol, as a famous example of a risk-taker, “who created art not just on the road less traveled, but never traveled”. Weitzman added that despite Warhol’s miserable early years as an artist, “his risk paid off”. Early in his career, Weitzman designed shoes for free, especially for celebrities—a business decision Weitzman classified as a risk.

“I had some capital saved working elsewhere and took a third of that capital to start a small factory that can make shoes one pair at a time to give to celebrities,” he said. .

Reflecting on his undergraduate education, Weitzman noted that if a Wharton professor had heard of his plans to use his savings to make a product that “nobody’s going to pay for,” he wouldn’t have been able to graduate.

However, when Aretha Franklin wore a pair of her shoes to the Grammys and personally thanked Weitzman onstage for making the “beautiful and comfortable shoes,” the risk paid off.

Comfort is a defining quality of Weitzman products. In designing his signature shoes, he said he was inspired by long-running, non-competitive brands that were produced on a large scale. One example is the Stuart Weitzman Gladiator sandals – modeled by Kate Moss – which were inspired by the Teva hiking sandals, popular among women for their comfort and look.

“I made the gladiator sandals not only for fashion but also for function,” he said. “The gladiator shoes all had elastic bands in the back and a little zipper, so you don’t have to worry about putting it on.”

Shortly after, the shoe became the “it sandals” of Europe and the United States.

For Weitzman, inspiration also came from the visual arts. Its 2016 campaign featuring Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls and Lily Aldridge kissing, completely naked except for Stuart Weitzman heels, was inspired by Antonio Canova’s “The Three Graces” sculpture. The campaign won her and photographer Mario Testino the Clio Fashion and Beauty Award the same year.

Weitzman added that the campaign has also received great attention from fashion magazines and publicity, saying, “When you take culture and art to another area, editors love it and write about it.”

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Aside from his muses, he said he partly owed his success to starting the business working for another company. Before launching his own line, Weitzman worked at Seymour Shoes, owned by his father Seymour Weitzman. Later the brand was sold to a Spanish company, but Weitzman continued to design shoes for the brand. Being an employee gave Weitzman the experience to launch his own brand.

“I learned who the best retailers in America were. I learned about the best suppliers. They made a lot of mistakes. I never made the same mistake. It was all at their expense,” he said. he declares.

With these lessons and a group of three who helped Weitzman start the business, he opened Stuart Weitzman shoes. To future entrepreneurs at Princeton, he said, “You can’t do this alone.

Weitzman also spoke about the importance of giving back to the community as an entrepreneur.

During the conference, he showed a short clip of Gigi Hadid introducing the “Gigi Mule” on the Jimmy Fallon show. The suede mules were designed by Stuart Weitzman and Gigi Hadid for the ‘Look Good, Do Good’ charity campaign. The campaign’s mission was to help build schools in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos in collaboration with Pencils of Promise.

The event took place on Wednesday, November 16 at Betts Auditorium from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Kayra Sener is a news contributor for The Daily Princetonian. Please direct any requests for corrections to the corrections on dailyprincetonian.com.

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