The WALK Magazine: Who Doesn’t Like Stuart Weitzman?

Written by Sarahbelle Kim 

Stuart Weitzman keeps it simple. He is classically charismatic, with a wry sense of humor and zany mannerisms like “Gollee!” He is fond of anecdotes because they remind him to “do things the right way” and his storytelling is slow but boisterous, with a pedagogic Dead Poets Society Keating-esque delivery. He prefaces tales with, “Well, I’ll tell you something” or “You’re gonna love this one.” Someone offers him a soda during our interview and he exclaims, “Oh boy! I love Dr. Pepper! Yippee!”

He recites the play-by-play of an exchange he had with a Bloomingdale’s salesman years ago. At the department store, he encountered a smorgasbord of specs while hunting for pants: Zipper fly. Light wash. Dark wash.

“What’s that called when they’re low, low down?” He cocks an eyebrow and gestures to his waistline. Low rise.

Shredded. Baggy. Boot cut.

“Too damn complicated!” he says, miming the exasperation of his younger self. “Who can absorb all of that?” Weitzman may not be updated on jean-rise terminology but he knows shoes and has always designed in the same way he lives. With an affinity for the simple, sensual, and universal.


Two things are instantly evident about Weitzman: he loves shoes and loves to chat. At a talk organized by the Baker Retail Center, he weaves up and down the amphitheater-style aisles to greet students as they filter into the lecture hall. It’s as if Mr. Rogers had a Long Island drawl and a Wharton degree. He exudes approachable bravado in a black quarter zip and athletic sneakers, the inconspicuous trappings of a designer off-duty. During an interview, he tells me that he practically has to carry around his passport when in New York because he habitually stops unsuspecting pedestrians and comments on their shoes. He just wants to tell you how great you look in his boots!

“My wife says I’m starting to get hunched over,” he says.

Weitzman lives by his favorite Forrest Gump quote: “you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes.” But he is not addicted to the perfect heel in the sense that Cristobal Balenciaga obsessed over the sleeve. He’s heard that story before and insists that the right shoe is not something imposed by some auspicious magazine or atelier. It’s deeply personal—this is a guy who proposed to his wife with a satin pump.

The Stuart Weitzman woman has a certain savoir faire about her. She is practiced in dressing and smiles at herself in the mirror. Yes, he has his muses: Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn. But also the whip-smart lawyer, the college professor, and the lady driving to the grocery store in the suburbs. She is every woman, as Chaka Khan sings. Of course, this also includes the most glamorous ones. Weitzman’s big break took place under the dazzling light of the red carpet while he was designing under his father’s label in 1983. When Aretha Franklin won an American Music Award, she slipped off her shoes, dangled the sequined d’Orsay pumps in front of the camera, and thanked Stuart Weitzman.

Weitzman had planned to work at Goldman Sachs after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. Twenty years later, he was the “Shoemaker for the Stars.”

One key to his success was imagination. “We all tend to lose it,” he says, “and I had to fight that.” He recounts an age-old joke during his talk, about a little girl named Julie in Kindergarten coloring a picture of God. Her teacher says, “But Julie, no one knows what God looks like.” Weitzman pauses for a beat. Then Julie goes, “Well you will in a minute!” The audience laughs. “Do you still have that imagination?” he asks us.

Weitzman found success through an unconventional approach to design, business, and publicity. He championed virality before social media existed, even though he still can’t figure out “what a Linkedin is, or that Tic Tac Toe thing [Tiktok].” One of his early successes was the 2002 “A Little Obsessed With Shoes” campaign that featured no shoes. The first page of the ad displayed a toy dalmatian dappled with heel-shaped spots. On the opposite was the simple text: Stuart’s dog. Its resounding success illustrates the power of buoyant simplicity and Weitzman’s passion for footwear.

That same year, Weitzman ventured into territory equally bold but more decadent. He crafted Laura Elena Harring, star of Mulholland Drive, a pair of heels encrusted with $1 million dollars worth of diamonds. There was “not a peep” about her $27 million necklace, he remembers with a grin. The shoes made headlines and spurred the creation of the red carpet “shoe cam.”

Through the decades, he continually adapted to a changing world. In 2013, he introduced himself to a woman at a wedding and was stupefied when she said “I know you! My mother wears your shoes.” His customer had grown up. That night, he lay awake thinking I have to do something about this. How could he capture the younger generation as customers? A campaign with Kate Moss, a well-known supermodel with a cosmopolitan cool factor, was the perfect solution. Weitzman called photographer Mario Testino and convinced him to help with a campaign called “Made for Walking.” They kicked it off with a chic black and white video shot by James Franco, featuring Moss strutting in tall, voguish strides down London streets to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Moss asked to keep the boots after the shoot.

Three years later, he collaborated with Testino again for a photoshoot inspired by the famous 19th Century Italian “Three Graces” statue by Antonia Canova, featuring Gigi Hadid and two other models wearing nothing but the block-heeled Nudist shoe. Four Taxicab fender benders took place within ten days of the exhibitionist billboard being pasted in front of the Stuart Weizman office. Weitzman gets a kick out of this and seems triumphant about the campaign’s bold approach. He’s a showman at heart.

“We’re ready for you Sarah!” he calls to a student who makes her way to the front of the Huntsman lecture hall. Gasps resound as eyes and phone cameras land on the feet of a girl modeling the 464 Kwiat-encrusted stilettos once worn by Harring. The shoes glimmer. People stand.


Weitzman himself does not wear heels. He has always been hyper-aware that he can’t try on what he is asking you to buy and he knows that this is a missing piece to his understanding of the shoe. His solution? Uplift those who can fill in the gaps.

“You can’t do it alone. I wanted to hire the best.” That meant not only having the communicative, the intelligent, and the “devil’s advocates” on staff at his company, but in terms of demographics, curating seventy two other managers, seventy one of whom were women. One prolific designer on staff was Arsho Bagsarian, an Armenian woman who pushed Weitzman to expand his approach to shoe design, once convincing him that the thong sandal is a realistically wearable shoe. Weitzman describes having so many women on his team as his best attempt to create a representational spectrum of female perspectives. One cannot help but think of the Women Dressing Women exhibit at the MET today. Weitzman knew that women could understand his core customer in a different way, and although he could never be one, he elevated them.

“I let them carry the trophy,” he said about his team during moments of success. Over the years, the brand has won the Clio Award, Bridal Industry Accessory of the Year, and other accolades, all of which Weitzman encouraged his project managers to accept credit for. He gives Susan Duffy her flowers for getting their thigh-high boots on Taylor Swift as Chief Marketing Officer and identifies Duffy’s work as instrumental to earning the brand the prestigious 2014 Footwear News Marketer of the Year. “Why would I get up and get [that] award?” he says.

Since stepping back from an active role at his company, he has remained attentive to trends in shoewear. One designer on his radar is Amina Muaddi, whose work he describes as “Oh so clean, oh so simple. Anybody can wear them.” Like Weitzman, the Jordanian-Romanian fashion designer was catapulted to fame when celebrities, like Beyoncé, wore her shoes. She may be the next generation’s “Shoemaker for the Stars.”


“See that chair?” Weitzman asks during our interview. “The way that lamp goes like this,” he gestures towards a curve, “that table, the ceiling of this room.”  When he looks around, he sees a world of design.

His propinquity to art forms outside of fashion, like architecture, was a tool that helped cultivate his shoe business. After he tried and failed to enter the Asian Market through the IFC Center, a luxurious mall in Hong Kong, he canvassed the area and noticed the buildings of the prolific Zaha Hadid. When he has a vision, Weitzman can be convincing. The Iraqi architect who The Guardian anointed “the Queen of Curves”  agreed to design his flagship in Milan, a sumptuous retail space with gleaming white surfaces and silver patinated shelves, as if Thierry Mugler and the spaceship from the movie Alien had a lovechild. Shortly after it opened, Weitzman got a call from the manager of the IFC. He had visited the store during fashion week and if they could get a similar one in the mall, they were in business.

“There is always a way,” Weitzman says. Even when the first answer is no, Weitzman is a man who makes things work. After his time shoemaking for the stars on the red carpet, he sensed an opportunity to gain more traction in daywear. In 2010, he decided that actress Jennifer Aniston would wear his shoes. He was told that she only shopped at the brand Scoop, so he “made Scoop” by designing a casual, crocheted espadrille that emulated the brand, and it became Aniston’s favorite shoe for the summer. He deployed a similarly inventive strategy to acquire British princess Kate Middleton as a customer, placing his product at the stores she was known to frequent in London, and soon, she was featured in People magazine wearing his wedges. “These are not one-off successes,” he says. “They have legs.”

Still, compromises come with the territory. In fall 2017, he designed a slouch boot covered in glitter only to witness creative director Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent awe observers with a strikingly similar Swarovski-covered boot on the Paris runway that same season. Weitzman’s version hadn’t been released yet and his marketing manager advised him not to promote it with the editors.

“She was right,” he admits. “He didn’t copy me obviously. I didn’t copy him, but it wouldn’t look that way.” Saint Laurent was the bigger, more luxe brand, and perception is everything in fashion. So why has Weitzman never pushed upmarket? The answer lies in his identity as a half-businessman-half-creative, the uncommon centaur of a fashion industry riddled with dynamic duos, from the symbiotic Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent to the Pradas today. Struggles that typically manifest themself between multiple people are internalized in Weitzman’s world, and at the end of the day, he says, business wins.  To him, the customer takes precedence above all, so he sticks to positioning that works— being the entry price point of luxury salons. Well-made and accessible.

“You want to have the smallest house on the best block. So that when you sell it, you’ll get more for it than you should. You’ll be within the neighborhood of these other million-dollar houses.” In 2015, Coach (now Tapestry Holdings) purchased the Stuart Weitzman brand for $574 million.

Weitzman takes things in stride and rarely too personally. He was never so bothered about competition; if anything, he is proud that he’s made shoes worth copying. “You want a cute Calvin Klein story? So one of the red carpet events just ended. ‘It’s so-and-so in a Calvin Klein dress and Stuart Weitzman sandals,’ my sandals. They asked who made the dress, but they didn’t waste their time on the shoe,”  It was such an iconic shape that the news didn’t bother to ask who the shoes were by.

If they had, they would’ve realized it was Calvin Klein’s copy of the Nudist. But no hard feelings towards Calvin Klein. In fact, they had one of the best product placements he’s ever seen. He asks me if I’ve seen Back to the Future and then spends a few minutes very animatedly retelling the whole Calvin Klein underwear scene in case I’ve forgotten.


“I’m reliving my career,” says Weitzman about the 150 college tours he’s done this year. Penn is one of many stops on a journey to impart what he’s learned to a younger generation.  He still doodles shoes on the occasional restaurant napkins, but these days, he’s taken up ping pong. He is rumored to settle disputes over the game. “Well, you know why I do that? I like to increase my odds.” In 2022, Weitzman won the bronze medal in table tennis at the Maccabiah Games, an international Olympic-style competition for Jewish athletes.

Once, he was in the semifinals of a tournament, playing a man twenty years his junior. “Why don’t you make the reservation [for dinner]?  I’ll be out of here in thirty minutes with this old guy,” Weitzman overheard his opponent say. To the young man’s chagrin, Weitzman won the match.

“He came over to me and he said, ‘How the hell old are you anyway?’” Weitzman raises his hands. “Kind of not nice, right?” He lied and answered, “I’m 88.” Stuart Weitzman is still not yet 88. “I wanted to give him, in German we say a ‘schtick!’” I ask him if ping pong is at all like designing shoes, and he says no. Still, I can’t help but see a throughline, in his measured roguishness at the table and throughout his career. Good luck trying to beat him at this game, Saint Laurent! Stuart Weitzman likes to increase his odds.

Then, he draws me a shoe. He sketches the graceful slope of the Nudist as we chat about the heel’s success. He explains what a shoemaking “last” is and we bond over being from Long Island. “Two things you can say about many Americans. They were either born in Brooklyn or raised in Long Island!” he says with a laugh. Weitzman is also semi-aghast when I reveal that many of his talks are on the internet. But then he just chuckles and shakes his head in resignation. “I don’t know what’s on the internet. I really don’t care!”

He seems confused when I ask him what animal his brand would be, in a metaphorical sense. Then, he decides that it is obviously a bunny. “I love bunnies! They’re puffy and fluffy and they’re fun and who doesn’t like bunnies?” he says.

And who doesn’t like Stuart Weitzman?