Friday, July 01, 2011


It's always a thrill when one of the more serious business publication's I love gives the inside-skinny on a topic I adore.

Fortune Magazine talks to Vince Camuto and tells how he went from shoe clerk to legend of the fashion footwear industry.

Camuto says, "My father was an artisan who died when I was 2, so I was always self-supporting and helping my mom. I grew up in Manhattan, and after high school I became a service manager at I. Miller, a fashionable store that sold women's footwear and accessories in the early '60s. Later, when I started selling in the store, all the ladies whom I'd met in the service area wanted to buy from me. They were starlets, professional models, and wealthy women.

I started sketching shoes in my early twenties, and I met Ted Poland, founder of Sudbury Shoe Co., who became my mentor. I was hired as a fashion merchandiser in Miami for National Shoe, then took over a Sudbury factory that wasn't doing well. I designed, produced, and sold the collection, and the factory went into the black. Then I became president of the import division for Beck Industries, a footwear retailer."

In the '70s he met Jerome Fisher, who was also a contractor for Sumitomo, and they started their own company marketing themselves as having Japanese financing, Italian design, and Brazilian manufacturing.

1979 saw them move to 9 West 57th Street and deliberating over a name for their new label. "I looked out the window, saw the number 9, and said, "Let's call ourselves Nine West," he says.

Adding, "We wanted to give women shoes with great style while keeping prices low. We became a hot brand, opened retail stores, and owned the entry-level customer. Ten years later we repositioned the brand to attract a higher-level customer."

It seems the mission is complete and growing, in 2010 they took in $2.5 billion at retail across all brands and categories.

Do yourself a favour and read the full Fortune article.

(Image Credit: Adam Krause / Fortune Magazine)

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