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Lifetime Achievement: Stuart Weitzman

With his multifaceted talent and business smarts, the designer continues to make a career-defining connection with consumers.

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50/50 Boot

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Alex Wedge

Photo By Courtesy Photo

In addition to the growth potential that The Jones Group sees in the brand, Weitzman's mastery of his business and hands-on approach has made the acquisition a success, said Jones Group CEO Wesley Card.

"Stuart combines three distinct facets: He's a brilliant designer, he's an outstanding merchant and he really understands the business," said Card. "He's a great resource to have here."

Echoed Greenfield, now creative director for Jones Group (thanks to an introduction by Weitzman, himself), "Stuart's not hands-on; Stuart is deep in — like bodily immersed. He's involved soup-to-nuts with everything, from concept to consumer. There's nothing that doesn't touch Stuart."

And that's just how Weitzman likes it, although he credits his team — many of whom have worked with him for decades — as being integral to his success over the years. His wife, Jane, also worked for years at the firm, helping to create the family atmosphere that has proved too difficult to give up.

"Who retires from a hobby?" Weitzman says over the phone from Spain. "I'd rather do this than watch a rerun on television."

 

A Few Recent Hits...
Million-Dollar Shoe
In 2002, Stuart Weitzman angled for footwear to take a more central place on the red carpet at the Oscars. He put $1 million worth of jewelry on a sandal for "Mulholland Drive" actress Laura Harring to wear at the event. The designer describes it as a tipping point for his company.

50/50 Boot
When Weitzman aggressively moved into the winter-boot category a few years ago, he started a major trend in high-end footwear. The 50/50 over-the-knee flat boot continues to be a slam dunk. Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sandra Bullock are just some of its celebrity fans.

Alex Wedge
The espadrille wedge with crochet upper was a hit from the start, winning celebrity fans and regular customers alike. It was an instance "where we have had as hot a women's shoe on the market as any other brand at any price. But not because we planned it — the shoe earned it," said Weitzman.

...On Stuart
"He operates on a true left- and right-brain mindset. The combination of creativity and a superb eye with business acumen is very hard to find today. He is attuned to what his customers want. He listens to what his customers are saying. I also think he's one of the nicest, most gracious men in the industry."
— Ken Downing, SVP & fashion director, Neiman Marcus

"How does one begin to talk about one's mentor and best friend? I'm so lucky to have had all these [30-plus] years listening and learning at his side, but I am not alone in having put in many years under Stuart's tutelage. All who work with him learn how he is unselfish about teaching and giving us his experience. It's infectious — you want to learn more, do more and do it better."
— Barbara Kreger, EVP, Stuart Weitzman Holdings LLC

"You could actually say we've only been married half the time because he's been away [that long]. ... But I've never been surprised by anything he did because I know how smart and talented he is. I've always had faith in him, and it never occurred to me that he wouldn't be successful."
— Jane Weitzman, wife of 45 years

"Stuart built a business model a long time ago that I don't think anybody could duplicate today. Stuart is obsessively committed. He creates enormous breadth of offer, and he's always been very respectful of his position. He's not trying to be somebody else. Stuart wants to be Stuart, and he does it pretty damn well."
— Ron Frasch, president & chief merchandising officer, Saks Inc.

"I have several examples during the financial crisis, when it was very hard in Hong Kong, and I had to go to some of my vendor partners to carry me through a period of time, and Stuart was consistently the most responsive. His character is reflected in the culture of the organization — very calm, very long-term, very solution-driven. He has an enormous capacity to give."
— Peter Harris, president, Pedder Group

"His greatest strength is his integrity and values. He never makes a decision based on money. It's always based on ethics and morality. That's one reason I feel that Stuart is family and I've always stayed with him [these 23 years]. It's the one lesson I will take to the grave: It's not about a quick buck but doing the right thing. That's what people remember when you go."
— Wayne Kulkin, vice chairman, Stuart Weitzman Holdings LLC

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