Like many shoe lovers, Jane Gershon Weitzman spent years happily shopping for perfect pumps. Her searches took her all over the globe. But what she unearthed on these high-heel treasure hunts never touched her feet.
The wife of luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman , Jane Weitzman carved out a niche for herself decorating the windows of her husband’s Madison Avenue flagship store during the 1990s and 2000s. For a span of a dozen years she filled the windows of Stuart Weitzman stores with shoes created from corrugated cardboard, wire, wood, steel, or flowers. She even found an artist who crocheted shoes.
As for Stuart Weitzman's creations? They didn’t appear in the windows.
“The windows showcased the art, and didn’t hurt business at all,” Jane Weitzman said. “It attracted people into the stores. Because, as you know, most of the world puts products in the window. We didn’t put the merchandise in the windows. I took that chance and I think it paid off. At the time I did what no one else was doing.”
She ended up finding or commissioning more than 1,000 pieces of shoe art, some of which have been collected in the book “Art & Sole” (Harper Design). As the windows became a must-see part of New York life, Weitzman expanded her vision and looked for even more avant-garde art. As the company grew and the number of shops expanded, Weitzman’s window displays began traveling to stores nationally, and then internationally.
The shoes sat in storage for the past decade, but after frequent inquiries about their whereabouts from Stuart Weitzman shoppers, Jane Weitzman decided to put together the book, which includes more than 150 photos of what she calls “fantasy art shoes.”
Stuart Weitzman, who got his start designing for his father’s factory in Haverhill, met Jane when they lived in the same apartment building in Brighton in 1965. The pair maintain their local connections. Stuart donates to civic projects in Haverhill while Jane sits on the board of Boston Children’s Hospital.
While she still has more than 1,000 art shoes, Weitzman regrets that she sold hundreds of the shoes to collectors over the years. She said she sold the contents of an entire window display to a store in London.
“In the beginning I was happy to sell them off and use the money for the next window. It was a huge mistake,” she said. “I had no idea that we would ever grow so much, and I certainly never dreamed that there would be a book.”Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.