For Camuto, the move marked his first break from the industry. He spent time with his family, traveled extensively and boosted his portfolio of covetable antiques and majestic mansions.
But he couldn’t stay away long from the thrill of the business. In 2001, Alex Dillard, a friend and longtime business partner, was aiming to enhance his family retail chain’s private-label footwear collection. He called Camuto.
Within months, Camuto and his wife, Louise, had crafted brand names like Gianni Bini and Antonio Melani for Dillard’s, sketched designs and opened factories in Brazil.
“We were just helping him. At the same time, it was the most fun we’d had. It was very exciting,” said Camuto. “But we can’t do anything small. We invested, making this a company, because when somebody bestows that kind of responsibility on you, you have to make it work.”
Indeed, they did. In fact, the Camutos kept building.
In the next decade, Camuto Group, which shifted the bulk of production to China, added to its holdings with footwear for Max Azria, Tory Burch and a namesake Vince Camuto line. The team struck early gold after paying $15 million for the Jessica Simpson license, which, according to company executives, is now a $1 billion brand. And Camuto’s eponymous label stands to hit $700 million in global retail sales this year.
“Vince has been an extremely important personality in the shoe business for as long as I can remember because he knows this business inside and out,” said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s Inc. “It is his extraordinary talent and his vast experience that have combined to create an impressive array of shoe brands, including Tory Burch, Jessica Simpson and our very own INC shoe line.”
Under Camuto, the firm eventually rounded out its portfolio with Lucky Brand, Louise et Cie, VC Signature and by taking a major stake in apparel firm Chaus Inc. It also focused on building its licensing programs and lifestyle categories. Now the company, which has 1,300 employees, is in 30 product categories, with 50 stores worldwide.
So would Camuto retire?
“That word isn’t in my vocabulary,” he said. “As people come up through the company, [I can do] less. We are the traffic managers. That’s what I’d like to do more of. I can only be in one place at a time. It’s not all Vince Camuto. We have teams of great people. The greatest thrill is when you see them grow. That is the greatest accomplishment.”