By: Laura Foster
Someone once told me, “a pair of shoes can change your life, just ask Cinderella.” While Cinderella may just be a fairy tale, fairy tales are just truths wrapped in a happy ending. Yes, shoes can complete an outfit, give you that extra little boost of confidence, and change your life. No, they might not always come with a prince.
I had the wonderful and unique opportunity to meet and interview Jane Weitzman recently. Jane Weitzman, the former executive vice president of Stuart Weitzman and the first vice president of Stuart Weitzman retail, as well as the wife of the world renowned shoe designer, has a new book Art & Sole. This beautiful book features a spectacular selection of more than 150 Fantasy Art Shoes from the Stuart Weitzman Collection. It is clear to anyone that meets her that Mrs. Weitzman is a kindhearted, generous woman, who has found a beautiful way to not only share some of the unique treasures from the Stuart Weitzman Collection, but also to help change the lives of those around her by giving back to charity.
LF: Can you tell us a bit about the book and what sparked the idea for Art & Sole?
JW: These were all shoes that were in our store windows that I did for our retail stores. When we sold part of our company, everything changed and people kept asking for them. So I just decided it would be fun to put them in a book.
LF: Did you have a favorite pair of shoes? How did you go about choosing the shoes that were commissioned for the book?
JW: [Laughing] I love them all! They’re like my children, I couldn’t pick! We had about 1000 shoes in the collection but we bought many more — some I commissioned, some I found from the artists. Sometimes I just liked the artist’s work and I got some great shoes that way. These are what we thought were the best ones. When we started doing this, I sold the shoes. The window was like an art gallery. I had no idea that we would open more stores or that I would do a book someday. I was just happy to get the money for the next window!
LF: We understand that some of the proceeds from the book are going to charity. Which charities specifically?
JW: All of my royalties will go to charities. I don’t know which ones those are yet because I don’t want to spend money before I have it. But, all the profits from the book sold in the United States Stuart Weitzman Stores from the month of September (2013) went to ovarian cancer research, and all profits from October (2013) went to breast cancer research. The profits from different book signing have gone to a variety of charities ranging from a charity to raise money for Asian women who have been abused to benefiting independent bookstores. The event today is benefiting the BJF (Birmingham Jewish Federation). Also, 10% of all sales from the Shoe Department will be donated to the BJF from that day. Since we sold the company, raising money for these charities and philanthropic has become like my new job, and I love it!
LF: Is there any reason why breast and ovarian cancer research are so dear to you?
JW: My mother died from breast cancer, so ever since I did the store, our third window was a breast cancer awareness window. We really wanted people to be aware of it. It’s a business for women and we believe we have a responsibility to take care of our customers. The reason we took on ovarian cancer is because one of our customers in our Boston store came to us and asked us to help her do an event. I realized that most women don’t know the symptoms for ovarian cancer, and they are all duplicate symptoms. I really wanted to make women aware of it, because we want everyone to catch it sooner rather than later.
LF: Were there any celebrities that you loved collaborating with?
Every year, we did a charity auction where we would send a pair of white Stuart Weitzman pumps to various celebrities and let them decorate them and then we would auction them off.
LF: Fantastic! Did you ever buy any of them?
[Thinking] No, but I thought about it. There were a lot of beautiful pairs! But Stuart got a pair by Yogi Berra, one of his heroes. We also did a lot of collaborations with inner-city schools and display them in the window. It was wonderful to see their face light up when they would see their shoes on display. That was always really special.
LF: Where is your favorite place you’ve visited on your book tour?
JW: I love to travel and I loved all the places I’ve visited on my book tour. I really like Birmingham. I’m just sorry I won’t get to stay longer and see more of it like the art museum.
LF: Do you have a favorite pair of shoes?
JW: I love the 50/50 boot from Stuart; I have them in a lot of colors. They’re celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. I couldn’t live without them! For events like this (book signings) or cold weather like today, they’re great.
LF: Do you have any advice that you have cherished that you love sharing with people?
JW: Be nice to people, and do something nice everyday!