It’s no secret that many women — and even some men — have been known to lose their heads over gorgeous footwear. Ever wonder what it would be like to be married to a man who makes high-end shoes for a living? When she headlines The Associated Women’s Fall Event, “One Sole Can Make a Difference,” on Nov. 6 at Temple Oheb Shalom, Jane Weitzman, wife of shoe wunderkind Stuart Weitzman, former executive vice president of Stuart Weitzman and former first vice president of Stuart Weitzman retail, will bare her soul, telling us what it’s like to walk a mile in her pumps.
Weitzman’s husband learned the shoe trade in his father Seymour’s shoe factory when he was a boy in Haverville, Mass. He began designing shoes for the company in his 20s, and when his father passed away in 1965, he and his brother took over the business. Stuart Weitzman, a Wharton School of Business graduate, was already in the shoe business by the time he proposed to his future wife, Jane Gershon, almost five decades ago. One might say the proposal was a “shoe-in” since it came in the form of a pair of white-lace shoes with the name “Jane Weitzman” printed inside.
Although the Weitzman brothers sold their company in 1972, Stuart Weitzman continued to design shoes for the new owners. Known for their impeccable attention to detail and the uncommon materials including gold, Lucite, gems and wallpaper that were used to create them, Stuart Weitzman shoes grew in popularity. In 1994, he took back ownership of the company, and soon after, he opened the first Stuart Weitzman retail store on Madison Avenue in New York City.
He put his wife in charge of marketing for the store, and Jane Weitzman broke ground in the retail world when she chose to display the works of art she called “fantasy shoes” in the store’s windows, rather than the wearable shoes sold in the store.
In doing so, she made Stuart Weitzman’s retail stores destinations, not just places to purchase beautiful shoes. The shoes became so popular that beginning in 2002, Weitzman began designing one-of-a-kind pairs for Oscar nominees walking the red carpet.
As she traveled across the country and around the globe, Jane Weitzman sought out fantasy shoes that she found and/or commissioned by artists she encountered in her travels. In fact, she admitted, some of the artists she commissioned were discovered on trips to Baltimore’s American Crafts Council fairs.
After the Weitzmans again sold the company several years ago, she found that people wanted to know what had become of the fantasy shoes that made window shopping at Stuart Weitzman’s stores as fascinating as a trip to an art museum. So Weitzman published a book that included highlights of the fantasy shoe collection. “Art & Sole” includes full-color photos of approximately 150 shoes of the more than 1,000 Jane Weitzman has discovered and commissioned since the opening of the first Stuart Weitzman store.
During an interview prior to her visit to Baltimore, she shed some light on women’s obsession with shoes.
“I think women love shoes, because no matter what, they can change an outfit,” she said. “You can wear a plain dress, but when you put on a beautiful pair of heels, you can dress it up. You can wear a dressy dress, but when you put on flats, you dress it down.”
Though Weitzman wouldn’t say how many pairs of shoes she owns, she admitted that she is partial to the pumps her husband designs.
“I love a plain high-heeled pump,” she revealed. “You can do so much with it. I have them in silver, gold, brown suede, leather.”
Stuart Weitzman makes them in various heel sizes. His wife, who is 5-feet 3-inches tall, likes the 31⁄2 heel height.
“I also love the 5050 boot. They are flat, so they’re comfortable all day long,” she said. This year, the 5050 is being made with quilted leather and black suede.
As far as her “fantasy shoes” go, she can’t say which her favorites are.
“They’re like children,” she said. “I can’t have favorites.”
But it’s not all about fashion for Weitzman. She said she has always known the importance of giving back.
“My parents both helped to rescue Holocaust survivors during World War II,” she explained.
As part of her work with Stuart Weitzman shoes, she was in charge of philanthropy for the company. Spearheading charity events such as the Stuart Weitzman Celebrity Breast Cancer Auction, she is a major supporter of breast and ovarian cancer research and awareness. Weitzman is active in Jewish causes as well, serving on executive committees and boards of UJA Greenwich, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weitzman is also on the Trust Board of Boston Children’s Hospital and the boards of the Jewish Book Council and the Greenwich JCC. Proceeds from “Art and Sole” benefit Weitzman’s favorite charities.
“I’ve traveled to Jewish communities in 30 countries and I’ve seen it,” she said. “If we don’t help them, no one will.”
For tickets and information about the event, visit associated.org/womenfallevent.