David Helpern, co-founder of Joan & David Inc., died May 14. He was 94.
Helpern’s company was founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 1967, and the Joan & David label was introduced in 1977. The brand grew to include the David & Joan menswear division, the bridge line Joan & David Too, as well as women’s ready-to-wear and accessories. Helpern’s brand went on to win the Footwear News Designer of the Year Award in 1986 and the FFANY award in 1990. (Joan & David is now owned by Nine West.)
Arthur Samuels, whose family founded Golo shoes, spoke fondly of Helpern and his former wife and business partner, Joan Helpern. “They were the kind of competitors that we loved,” he said.
Designer Arsho Baghsarian said the husband-and-wife team did a great job in creating looks for working women. “For that clientele, it was classic well-made shoes [out of] Italy,” she recalled. “They were in good taste without being over the top.”
Donald Pliner also highlighted David Helpern’s business savvy, comparing him to the late footwear giant Jerry Miller. “David was the creative administrator [of the company],” said Pliner. “He made it such a success as an empire.”
Helpern is survived by his children, David Jr. and Elizabeth, and three grandchildren.