In the latter part of the 20th century, the notion of affordable luxury was slowly becoming realized. High-end luxury brands began launching diffusion lines to offer their highly-stylized clothing at lower prices. Soon, the contemporary market was created, with brands popping up for exactly that type of price range. Although this market has become common with fashion brands, it’s not exactly the same with shoes. To this day, there is still a strong divide between high-end shoes—the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo, and more affordable shoes—the likes of Nike and Adidas. Only a few have infiltrated both levels, one, in particular, is Stuart Weitzman.
Stuart Weitzman is an upscale footwear brand that sells their items at an affordable price range. Like his contemporaries Blahnik and Choo, Weitzman’s designs are usually refined, edgy, sophisticated, with a little bit of exoticism and eroticism. They’re lauded and worn by some of the fashionable women in the world. But, although such footwear usually costs a fortune, Weitzman’s does not. He understands that the everyday consumer who can’t afford to a thousand dollars to pay for a pair of shoes need their fair share of glamorous footwear, and he and his company certainly provides them with such.
From a Family Shoe Business
Weitzman was born in 1941 to a shoe business-owning family in Haverhill, Massachusetts. His father and brother owned and ran a shoe factory in their area, named “Seymour Shoes” after the patriarch of the family. He initially strayed away from the family business, taking up a business degree at the famous Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. However, during his college years, he began sketching shoe designs for a friend’s father’s shoe business, which started his fascination and career into footwear. Soon, Weitzman joined his brother in taking over the family business in 1965, the year their father passed away.
In 1971, a Spanish company named Caressa acquired 50% of the company’s shares, moving the label’s manufacturing in Spain. However, Weitzman still had creative control over the brand, pushing it to prominence by the late 1970’s to today. In 1994, he bought the remaining shares from Caressa, gaining full ownership of the company. However, he still has his shoes manufactured in the factories in Spain. Throughout the 21st century, the Stuart Weitzman brand has become one of the leading brands in the footwear industry. Especially when they decided to sell their items a lower price than their competitors.
The Million-Dollar Shoes
Beyond his genius work as a shoe designer, Weitzman was also creative when it came to marketing his products. One of his most iconic ploys was the “Million-Dollar Shoes”, a specially-designed pair worn on the red carpet of the Academy Awards. Each year, Weitzman designs a unique pair of shoes—made with unusual materials such as cork, vinyl, and lucite, to be worn by an Oscar nominee of that year. One of his most memorable pairs was a diamond-encrusted pair of strappy heels Laura Harring wore to the 2002 Oscars ceremony. To this day, it’s regarded as one of the most memorable shoe moments in red carpet history.
Famous Footwear Fans
Although not everyone gets to wear the famed “Million Dollar shoes”, a lot of female celebrities still wear Stuart Weitzman shoes both on and off the red carpet. The brand’s pair of suede knee-high boots has caught the eyes of many A-list celebrities, from models like Gigi Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to actresses like Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba. On the red carpet, actress Diane Kruger, Olivia Wilde, and Shailene Woodley have worn the brand’s iconic “Nudist” shoes, a pair of black, razor-thin strapped heels. Pop stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Solange Knowles have also donned Stuart Weitzman shoes on the red carpet.
Because of their style and comfort, the brand’s items have also become a common fixture in airport style. Stars like Fergie, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Lindsay Lohan have all been spotted in airports wearing Stuart Weitzman. More so, pop culture personalities like reality TV stars Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, as well as socialite Olivia Palermo, are also fans of the label.
Beyond footwear, the company has also branched out into other luxury goods as well. They now have a leather goods line, fronted by their array of handbags and purses and other accessories. Similar to their shoes, their bags are designed beautifully and made with the finest craftsmanship and exotic materials. Although they’re not as varied in design as the shoes, their quality is the same. Also similarly to their shoes, their bags are also sold at affordable prices.
Selling high-quality, well-crafted, and beautifully-designed pieces with an affordable price range is a deadly combination. It almost automatically guarantees retail success, as proven by the Stuart Weitzman’s rise to prominence. Even though he no longer owns the company, he still leads the creative control, making sure that his legacy of offering shoes of the highest quality with low prices is untouched. Today, his label is one of the most successful in the industry, selling in over 70 countries around the world.