“I like to design shoes that envelop the feet, giving the pleasant sensation of walking barefoot,” the designer said about his approach to footwear.
After finishing design school in Paris, Rabotin landed a position working with footwear designer Robert Clergerie. He later launched an eponymous collection of luxury looks that developed a cult following around the world.
“Thierry designed and created functional fashion footwear and showed retailers that if the product is great, they can easily sell shoes for $300 to $400, creating a price point that most never thought we could sell,” said Danny Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes in New York. “He truly changed the shoe business as we knew it. One could call him a fashion genius.”
Chicago retailer Peter Hanig, president of Hanig’s Shoes, said Rabotin’s collection appealed to a self-assured woman looking for comfort and style. “He was artistic in the way he approached design,” said Hanig, who knew Rabotin for nearly 20 years. “Color was a major part of his thinking — also using architectural shapes.”
Melissa Kenady, former sales agent, said Rabotin also connected one-on-one with consumers at store trunk events. “When he worked with customers, they felt like they were all queens,” said Kenady. “He was generous with his time.”
Like Kenady, Lisa Lovisolo McIver was a sales agent for Rabotin for 15 years. “Thierry was a true gentleman and design genius,” said McIver. “His inspiration was a love of making footwear [as] an experience and not just a shoe.”
New York is home to the Thierry Rabotin U.S. flagship store, which also houses the showroom out of which the American sales team led by Nancy Osborne and Joao Forte operates. “Thierry was a very private person, an artist. He was whimsical, full of life and color,” manager Cathy Bartholomew said. “With each new season, he painted a series of paintings to accompany his thoughts and feelings about his new collection. His studio was bursting with artwork.”