Stuart Weitzman giving up his shoe business?

Stuart Weitzman is celebrating his 25th year anniversary as head of the company that bears lhis name. A designer who also makes patterns, he's somewhat of a rarity in the business. But, at age 70, is he ready to retire and give it all up?

Not even close -- or so it appears, "Early Show" contributor Katrina Szish reported. Weitzman would not confirm nor deny that he's planning to sell the rest of his company shares.

Last year, Weitzman sold a majority stake in his company to the Jones Group Inc., a design and marketing company that owns Nine West, Easy Spirit, Jones New York, Evan-Picone and Norton McNaughton, among others. And now, CBS News is hearing that Weitzman might sell all of his shares by the end of next year.

"The Early Show" caught up with the designer, and he shows no signs of slowing down -- or retiring -- anytime soon -- his eye for fashion is as strong as ever. And he knows what he wants.

When Weitzman discussed an upcoming look with workers, he said, "I want to know whether we're going to do gray (crocodile), or brown croc." When faced with a design he didn't like, he didn't hesitate to share, saying, 'We're not doing that, forget that, that's no good.'"

Weitzman has many layers. Weitzman's career was, at one time, headed in the finance and business direction.

"You never made it to Wall Street," Szish said. "I know that was a dream at one point."

"No I didn't make it to Wall Street," Weitzman said. "But I've worked at my hobby and I wouldn't change it now that I've done it."

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's renowned Wharton School of Business, Weitzman ditched his degree and turned his hobby into a successful career. Now, he's selling more than two million pair of shoes a year, in 70 countries.

Shoe-making runs in Weitzman's genes.

"My father was a shoe manufacturer and designer and my mom was a model, and he used to dress her in these gorgeous shoes," Weitzman said. "She had a fabulous looking pair, a very high heel, and it fascinated me how it did not collapse. I was a 4-year-old boy. I just didn't get it, and that began my love affair with footwear."

That love affair has spanned five decades.

The first shoes Weitzman made was a bridal pair. He showed Szish a fabric copy of the first design.

"Isn't that funny -- in the beginning. that was my bridal shoe, and I did it in white, right there," he said, looking at the design. "We called it 'sheer delite.' You see how it would look on your foot. (Part) gets cut away so you have a scallop throat line around your foot and it's all nude. Boy, we should make that shoe again."

Szish remarked, "I think you should."

"What a shoe that was," Weitzman said.

Bridal shoes were a niche market -- a way for Weitzman to get into the business.

"I started to make them and evening shoes and party shoes," Weitzman said. "We still make bridal shoes, which is a big part of our business."

These days, with celebrities like Beyonce, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Hudson wearing his shoes, the name Stuart Weitzman is synonymous with glamour. But that red carpet recognition didn't come until 2002, at the Oscars, when actress Laura Elena Harring, of the Oscar-nominated film "Mulholland Drive," strutted out in Weitzman shoes with 464 diamonds, worth $1 million.

"She was photographed as much as Halle Berry, who won the award that year, and everyone knew who Stuart Weitzman was in markets we had never been, and that was a turning point, and I saw the power of a fabulous shoe," Weitzman said.

Weitzman considers himself both a shoe designer and an engineer -- aiming for function as much as function.

"I will never put a shoe in the line that's a compromise on fit," Weitzman said. "I will take a shoe out of the line, even if it's gorgeous. And if it's that gorgeous, we'll have to figure out another way to make it, because I don't want to lose a beautiful idea, but it isn't going out there unless I'm pretty sure it's right."

That legendary Stuart Weitzman fit might not be possible without the help of one woman -- Barbara Kreger. With her size-six feet, Kreger has the perfect "test" foot for a designer. For the past 32 years, she's walked in every Stuart Weitzman shoe design three times before it hits store shelves.

Szish asked Kreger, "When you put on a shoe that feels right, how does it feel?"

"Like nothing, like there's nothing on your foot," Kreger said. "There's nothing pushing, nothing pulling."

Weitzman said, "That's how they should all feel. There's no reason they shouldn't almost all feel that way. You may have to shop a little harder to find it, but it's out there."

Kreger said, "And you keep trying and you change it and you move it and you adjust it, until it just feels normal."

Asked if he would retire if he gave up his shares, Weitzman replied, "No. You retire from a job, but who retires from a hobby? I don't think anybody does. I certainly won't."

"Would you still be here day-to-day, would you still be sketching?" Szish asked.

Weitzman replied, "Come interview me a year from today and you'll find out the answer is 'yes.'"

On "The Early Show," Szish said it seems Weitzman plans to have an active role in the company even if he sells his remaining part of it.

She added, "Weitzman told me that he sketches about 1,000 shoes each season. And he's the lead designer on every pair of shoes that he sells."

As for Weitzman's family taking over, Szish said Weitzman is married and has two adult daughters, but neither work with him in the shoe business.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.