(LOS ANGELES) Stuart Weitzman’s clever marriage of stylish designs with wearable heels that won’t leave you limping has grown his business into a $300 million empire. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, and Diane Kruger have taken note. The savvy shoe maestro filled us in on how he built his roster of celeb clients, and why his heels are the ticket to a painless awards season.
BY PAIGE REDDINGER
Who was the first celebrity to ever wear your shoes?
Barbara Walters about 40 years ago. She was interviewing Henry Kissinger, who had been doing diplomacy in the Middle East. My secretary said, “You won’t believe who it is. It’s Barbara Walters.” So I picked up the phone and after she told me why she was calling I thought, Doesn’t matter who you are—every woman loves shoes. I just had to laugh, you know?
So she didn’t even go through a stylist?
They didn’t have stylists back then. It was more open. The way the conversation went was, “Hello, this is Barbara Walters.” And I said, “I’m actually speaking to Barbara Walters?” Boy, when I told my kids, they said, “Wow! We have a cool daddy.” That’s how it started.
How did you get other stars to wear your shoes?
They don’t have a problem finding beautiful shoes, but they do have a problem finding ones they can wear all night and that’s what we’re known for. When stylists became the way to get to celebrities, a lot of them would lead their stylist to us. People like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lawrence come to us now. But I spent a week at the Academy Awards for 15 years meeting stylists and actresses and custom fitting shoes personally. You really have to put the time in. I was in business about 10 years before I went after that trade.
Have you ever paid a celebrity to wear your shoes?
No! But if they’re going to use them for an event then we gift them and that allows us also to talk about it.
How do you prepare for Oscar season?
The final bell doesn’t ring until they decide which dress they’re going to wear. Many times we get surprises with actresses wearing our shoes that we didn’t think would be wearing them, because it works with their dress. But sometimes we lose the opportunity to put shoes on an actress, because she changed the dress. You win some. You lose some.
Do you ever get special last-minute requests?
We’re very good with that because I own my own factories so I can make things in a day if I have to. That maybe gets us a little extra.
What’s your big shoe right now?
The NUDIST sandal. It’s swept this season’s awards shows. We launched a customization program that gives shoppers the opportunity to design their own NUDIST sandal in 12 materials and colors.
If you could have five celebrities at your dinner table, dead or alive, who would you invite?
Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. When I’m designing my shoes I actually think of them. I’d like to have Jennifer Aniston. I’d also have one of these hot young kids like Diane Kruger, because they give me a new attitude, or Beyoncé, who’s so well regarded as one of America’s great women. That would be a nice table. I probably wouldn’t be able to eat anything.
What’s your Oscar pick for best film?
My daughter, who’s a film critic at the NY Daily News said, “Don’t bet against 12 Years a Slave.”