NEW YORK — Jodi Fisher, the visionary behind FFANY Shoes on Sale and VP of public relations and media at Nine West and Jones Apparel Group, died Wednesday after a long battle with leukemia. She was 49.
Though Fisher, daughter of Nine West co-founder Jerome Fisher, had been ensconced in the footwear world since childhood, she made a name for herself by creating Shoes on Sale and turning a small charity event into a national breast cancer fundraiser.
“The shoe industry should always remember Jodi as the founder of Shoes on Sale,” her father told Footwear News. “I am going to deeply miss my wonderful daughter.”
Fisher is survived by her husband, Paul Horowitz; children Elizabeth, Jared and Tate; mother Joy Fisher; father Jerome “Jack” Fisher and stepmother Anne Fisher; and brothers Jeffrey and Marc Fisher.
“The Fisher family has a long history of leadership and innovation in the footwear industry,” said Wes Card, CEO of Jones Apparel Group. “Our thoughts and condolences go out to them in their time of loss.”
Fisher was born in Newton, Mass., and shortly after graduating from Boston University began her career in public relations and advertising. In 1992, she joined White Plains, N.Y.-based Nine West and Jones Apparel and the following year launched Shoes on Sale.
Over the years, FFANY and QVC have teamed up with Nine West to raise nearly $30 million for breast cancer awareness and research, and the success of the annual fundraiser has been largely attributed to Fisher.
“[She had] an amazing passion for everything she touched,” said Stacy Lastrina, EVP of marketing and advertising at Jones Apparel Group. “Jodi was a pioneer of what corporate social responsibility should be. I watched Jodi unify an industry, convincing them to act not as competitors but as philanthropists, and lobbying with passion and great determination.”
Dick Jacobson, former president of FFANY, recalled Fisher approaching FFANY about getting behind a women’s cause. “She was the angel that inspired Shoes on Sale,” said Jacobson. “That was the starting point. Without her inspiration, we would not have gotten there. She was a true champion.”
Though Fisher’s appetite for philanthropy and enthusiasm for the cause were critical to getting Shoes on Sale started, FFANY President Joe Moore said it was her marketing expertise that elevated the event into what it has become today. “We used her muscle and influence with magazines,” Moore recalled. “It was her biggest contribution. I take my hat off to her dedication to this cause.”
Marcia Dickerson, a longtime family friend and former Nine West employee, worked with Fisher over the years and remembers how her determination rallied others to get
involved. When she first presented the idea to FFANY, recalled Dickerson, “eight or nine of us jumped in with both feet. … She was so proud of [the work]. She was so strong in everything she tried to do from [public relations] to getting shoes.”
It was just a year after the launch of Shoes on Sale that QVC became a partner, turning a local happening into a nationwide event. Denise Wine, director of event marketing at QVC, said Shoes on Sale wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Fisher’s persistence.
“Jodi and Nine West were instrumental in getting the program off the ground, donating the largest number of shoes — nearly half a million dollars [worth] — for the first 12 years,” she said. “Then, they were able to draw in other shoe companies and manufacturers and personalities because of the efforts they had made.”
Wine watched Shoes on Sale grow over the years and found herself continually impressed with Fisher’s determination to make each event better than the one before. “After a couple of years doing something like this, you’d think it would be easy to fall into a routine,” Wine said. “But Jodi was always innovating.”
As for the future of Shoes on Sale without Fisher, Wine said, “we all are committed because of her commitment. We all share in that passion of finding a cure for breast cancer. When we do, the success will be that much sweeter.”
It is Fisher’s dedication that has left the deepest impact, industry leaders agreed.
“Jodi’s contributions … have been significant,” said Andrew Cohen, CEO of footwear accessories and retail at Jones Apparel Group. “Her legacy will live on through the continued growth of this important initiative, fueled by the footwear industry’s ongoing support of such a worthy cause.”
Danny Schwartz, CEO and president of Schwartz & Benjamin, agreed. “Jodi devoted a lot of her time and energy to building Shoes on Sale. It started out as a much smaller endeavor [with us] all selling shoes in tents outside of the Plaza hotel. Today [QVC and the footwear industry donate millions of dollars] for breast cancer research, and Jodi should get a lot of the credit for that.”
Months before her July 2007 diagnosis, Fisher was honored for her work with Shoes on Sale and inducted into FN’s Hall of Fame. In a 2006 interview, Fisher recalled her mother’s battle with breast cancer and vowed lifelong dedication to the cause. “We won’t stop until we have a cure,” she said.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked donations be made to The Jodi Fisher Horowitz Leukemia Research Fund. Donations can be sent to the attention of Dr. Stephen Nimer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, 1275 York Ave., Box 575, New York, N.Y. 10021.