Amy Jo Gladstone: The Queen of Shoes
What is the one thing that no woman can have enough of? What tiny piece of frippery can make a woman swoon, go rabid, or pay thousands of dollars to own? Yet wear for maybe fifteen minutes? SHOES! Yes, shoes are a woman?s best friend and worst enemy. Amy Jo Gladstone understands our obsession with cute sexy shoes.
On screen, her monogrammed slippers adorned Julia Roberts? feet in Oceans Twelve. Off-screen her shoes, sandals and slippers have made editors at Oprah, USA Today, In Style, Bazaar and other mags swoon. Countless women want to hug her. Why? Because she has actually made sexy, classy and fun shoes that are (gasp) low heeled!
Both of Amy Jo?s parents were in fashion. Her mother was a COTY award winner and her father was a force in the apparel market. In the 80?s she began designing custom jewelry. While she was very successful, Amy Jo wanted to try something else. So Amy Jo entered the shoe business in 1994. And she has become wildly victorious in a fickle field.
Working from her factory in Bronx, NY her four lines; Collection (stylish, chic wedges, slides, mules and monogrammed shoes), Needlepoint (needlepoint slippers of pedigreed dogs and horses), Lifestyle (velvet slippers, sandals) and Spa (foot wear for home and spa) have shod feet across America and Japan.
They have become a ?goodie bag? staple. Gift certificates for her custom monogrammed slippers were in the bag at this past year?s Oscars. Recently Leonardo DiCaprio bought a pair of the aforementioned slippers for his mom. They are quickly becoming a must for A-listers. They have become the shoe of choice for women who want a smart, sexy shoe that they can walk in.
Amy Jo: First Person
EDGEBoston recently caught up with Amy Jo. We were able to ask her everything from what?s good on a first date to what to look for in a shoe.
EB: We women (I think) are predisposed to love shoes. What was the creative spark that led you to design shoes? And more specifically low heeled shoes?
Amy Jo: Ten years ago, I saw a void that I couldn?t walk away from. None of the small businesses I read about, or the retailers I talked to were taking a serious look at the footwear market. It was all either Grandma?s fuzzy slippers or 6-inch stilettos. There was nothing in between ? nothing for the woman who wanted something stylish and sexy that didn?t kill her feet, nothing with personality and complexity.
After 2 surgeries and a series of foot problems, I?d have to say that I just can?t wear heels and I feel many women face this same issue. I?ve made shoes with 1 inch or less; heels that are still feminine and stylish.
EB: How did you learn to create shoes?
Amy Jo: By watching a patternmaker and shoemaker and learning the basics. I met him through networking, networking, networking!
EB: What inspires you? Is it varied? Do you have a muse? Or do you just get a feeling an urge that says ?make this shoe!?
Amy Jo: I guess it?s varied. I like to call myself an artist and when I get a vision I just need to create it. I read a lot and talk with friends and family, as well as my customers and prospects at trade shows; to get their sense on things, too.
EB: How do you know when a shoe is ?right,? or when it?s ?wrong?? Do you have people road test them for you, or do you road test them yourself?
Amy Jo: I can just feel when a shoe is right for me. However, that doesn?t mean it will be our best seller or that everyone in the office will love it. I like to test some of my shoes on people I trust?their opinion matters to me. It?s important for me to pay attention to the market while retaining my vision.
EB: Have you ever designed a shoe that the rest of your team hated and ended up being a winner?
Amy Jo: Yes, Style 61051. It?s a black velvet slipper with a big bow.
EB: How many people do you have on your creative team? How do you work together to create a design or do you?
Amy Jo: Ultimately, I am the creative team. I do work very closely with my patternmaker to create the styles I envision.
EB: What?s your favorite shoe? Why? Or do you have more than one?
Amy Jo: It?s an old model that I?ve been thinking about bringing back on the market. It?s a leopard slide with short fur. The strap is fat and mushy. These are winter slides and really cozy.
EB: What?s your favorite fabric to work with and why?
Amy Jo: I love the touch of short polyester leopard, velvet and the new micro- terry.
EB: What?s the easiest and the hardest type of shoe to design and why?
Amy Jo: There are no shortcuts. All of my styles are complex in their own way, yet they start out very simple.
EB: What shoe trend do you love i.e. fabric, toe, style?
AmyJo : Flats! The world doesn?t need another pair of uncomfortable shoes for women. There are still so many ways to be feminine and stylish in flats or low-heeled shoes. I love experimenting with fun fabrics like terrycloth and velvet, and anything soft or colorful.
EB: What shoe trend do you dislike? What is it about the trend you don?t like?
Amy Jo: I don?t like high heels, especially those with no support around the front of the foot, or those that don?t have soft insole/lining.
EB: Do you think it?s true when people say your personality is reflected in your shoes?
Amy Jo: Absolutely. My style is comfortable and simple, but still feminine and stylish ? just like my designs. I design for the woman who dresses in a classic and simple manner, and chooses to express herself through accessories such as shoes and jewelry.
EB: What is the perfect shoe for a first date? Me, I?m thinking about your animal print mules!
Amy Jo: It definitely depends on your personality. I think you should wear something you feel comfortable in, something that reflects who you are. Of course, it also depends on your mood.
EB: What are the dos and don?ts for wearing sandals?
Amy Jo: The trouble is that during the summer it’s very easy to become too casual. And that doesn’t always work in the professional world. It definitely depends on your work environment. To play it safe, I suggest flats, mules, kitten-heeled shoes or moccasins to accessorize your outfit.
EB: You rose to fame when your custom monogrammed slippers graced Julia Roberts feet in Ocean?s 12- how did it feel to see your shoes onscreen?
Amy Jo: It was a great feeling ? I never thought I?d make it this far.
EB: Your shoes have become a definitive ?goodie bag? ingredient at A-list events like the Oscars. How did that happen? When you got the call were you nervous, or did you think someone was pulling a prank on you?
Amy Jo: There are several gift bag opportunities out there. It?s a matter of identifying which ones make sense for us. I think there?s a real interest right now for celebrities who are seeking more comfort in their footwear as well as their clothes
EB: You have a lot of celebrity clients- I just read that Leonardo DiCaprio a pair of your monogrammed slippers for his mom- congratulations!
Amy Jo: Yes, it was Leonardo DiCaprio who ordered a pair of velvet monograms for his mom, Irmalin DiCaprio. And I was very excited!
EB: What celebrity would you love to wear your shoes?
Amy Jo: Oprah! She?s such a strong woman and has great style.
EB: When we women are shoe shopping, what should we look for in a shoe?
Amy Jo: The perfect balance between style and comfort. There?s no need to sacrifice one for the other.
EB: You?re showing yummy animal prints for fall- do you think that?s going to be a big trend?
Amy Jo: Animal prints are always in style. However, I?ve definitely seen more animal prints this fall than in the past. I?m really excited about it.
EB: Do you think you might branch out to boots, bags, belts and other accessories?
AmyJo: I?m always thinking about new things and watching the market. It?s always a possibility, but I still feel there?s so much to explore in the niche I?ve created.
EB: Will we find your shoes in Europe soon?
Amy Jo: I do sell in Tokyo, Japan and we?re always looking to expand. In the past, we have sold in some European countries.
EB: Do you plan to have any ?Amy Jo Gladstone? stores throughout the country?
Amy Jo: At the moment, this is not in our current plan. However, it?s something I think about for the future. Currently, my collections are available online and at many retail and specialty stores.
You can look over, lust after and buy her line at her website, www.amyjogladstone.com . Or you can visit her shoes at Linens on the Hill, Lynn52 Charles Street. Boston, Showcase at Canyon Ranch, 165 Kemble Street, Lenox, or Murray’s Toggery, 62-68 Main Street, Nantucket.
Just don?t blame us if you get carried away and buy all her shoes.