I think we all know that the world of social media-Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Myspace, and others-has changed how we interact with each other and how companies interact with us. It allows us to reach out and virtually meet people we would never have had an opportunity to talk with before. It gives us “friends” to turn to when we need information or recommendations or just entertainment. We google to find restaurants or bookstores or venues in our cities-when was the last time you picked up the Yellow pages?
I’ve always loved shoes. My colleagues and students will tell you that my shoes are the first thing they check out after saying hello to me. So you can imagine how excited I was this week when I learned I was the winner of a contest on Twitter. My prize? A personal phone call from THE shoe designer, Stuart Weitzman.
Stuart called at 4:20pm yesterday. We talked about Beth Levine, the first female shoe designer, who along with her husband Herbert changed the look of shoes for all time. Beth designed the white go-go boots worn by Nancy Sinatra to publicize her 1966 best selling hit song (quick-name that song!) In fact, Beth took boots from the purely practical function of rain and snow protection at that time to the fashion accessory they are today. She introduced stiletto heels and mules to American women, both designed to make our feet look as elegant as her own tiny size 4Bs. I asked Stuart if his family had known Beth and he said yes. His father, Seymour Weitzman, whose shoes were labeled “Mr. Seymour,” and the Levine’s were co-manufacturers in the late 1950s.
I asked him his opinion of the huge current popularity of flip flops for both men and women. He responded by asking me if I had any and when I said, yes, a couple pairs but mine have bling on them, he laughed and said, Me too!
We talked about all the choices in shoes now-pointed toe, round toe, the new style that covers the ankles-and I asked him how this affected his approach to designing new shoes. He said it really allowed him to be more creative as he does not have to be wed to any particular toe shape. Instead he can listen to his customers more whom he says let him know their favorites. He noted that the runway was just show biz. The best fashion trends are an extension of what we see on the street, what people are actually wearing. This connection to his fans and customers is also why he personally interacts on Twitter.
We talked about how the world of social media has changed his business. He shared with me his experience when he designed an espadrille wedge shoe that had modest sales. Then Jennifer Aniston was photographed several times in public wearing the shoes, people started blogging about them and going on discussion boards asking where they could be bought, and the shoe became one of Weitzman’s biggest sellers of all time.
I bemoaned the fact that my favorite pair of Stuart Weitzman boots, bought in 2001 or so, were so worn that I had had to retire them. I asked him if he had ever considered bringing back some of the designs that customers liked so well in the past. He told me to send him a photo of the boots.
My last question was to ask Stuart what advice he would give my students. His first response was to say that if they liked fashion, then the world of fashion design is the most exciting place you could imagine. However, he went on to agree that it’s important to do something you love doing, something that makes you excited to get up in the morning and go to work. As Stuart creates some 300 styles per year, he obviously loves designing shoes.
Thanks, Stuart, for taking the time to call one of your biggest fans. As Cinderella said, "one shoe can change your life."