Industry fixture Gonzalo Pedroso died in Miami on July 22. He was 67.
Pedroso is remembered for his showmanship, his ready smile and his extensive career in footwear. Better known as “Zalo,” he began as a buyer for Burdines (now Macy’s) and Bloomingdale’s, and went on to design his own collections.
“He was one of the shoe business’s great geniuses,” said Steve Madden, who met and developed a rapport with Pedroso in the 1980s.
Footwear consultant Denny Cohen agreed: “Zalo was such a talent, but most importantly, [he was] a great friend for so many years.” Cohen, who worked with Pedroso at both Burdines and Bloomingdale’s, noted he was a fun-loving character who always signed off on letters and emails with “a la playa,” or “at the beach.”
Doris Johanson, former VP and DMM for shoes and handbags at Bloomingdale’s, said Pedroso worked under her for about two years before bowing his own line, Paradox by Zalo, in the 1980s.
“He was amazing, and nobody will ever, ever forget him,” Johanson said.
In the 1990s, Pedroso and partner Ramón Tenza founded Zalo by Ramón Tenza, which is still known for its Gentry smoking slipper.
“I’m certain he would be laughing now about every collection now proffering the perennial smoking slipper silhouette he made famous, which he freshly reinvented each season with a kaleidoscope of new colors and materials,” said Randy Ochart, president of French Sole Shoes Ltd. “The aspect I loved most about Zalo was his constant laughter about life, himself and the craziness of this business. Sitting at a cafe in Elda, New York, or Miami, he always brought joy and mirth to everyone who ever shared a table with him. Both he and his unique vision will be sorely missed.”
Pedroso also left an impression on executives at Nina Footwear, where he worked as a designer during the 1990s. “Zalo was larger than life,” said Nina’s creative director, Flori Silverstein. “He brought a sense of whimsy to everything he did. He was all about fun and color, and even a plain pump wasn’t plain in Zalo’s hands. He always made us laugh and would regale us with stories of pre-Castro Cuba and his days at Bloomingdale’s.”
Pedroso’s friends said family was his main joy in life. His daughter, Lalin García-Pedroso, followed in his footsteps to become a footwear designer, while his son, Gonzalo L. García-Pedroso, is chief information officer at South Kent School in South Kent, Conn.
Lalin García-Pedroso spoke about her father’s fun-loving side, as well as his passion for the business. She added that she had been looking forward to one day working alongside her father. “I got so excited when on his dining room table I saw all his work,” she said. According to García-Pedroso, Tenza will present the spring ’13 line.