Here’s How This Shoe Designer Handles the Toughest Male Customers

Men’s and women’s designer Noah Waxman, who sells his eponymous collection from his boutique in New York’s West Village, is marking his five-year anniversary.

Recently, he chatted with FN about what he’s learned so far and the creative influences that have guided him along the way.

As you mark half a decade this year, what’s been your greatest challenge and opportunity?
“The business has changed so dramatically. When I started, I was very focused on wholesale. The world we’re living in today has different demands as customers are shopping in new ways. I’ve been making adjustments to adapt to this new era. This is why we’ve opened our New York shop [in the West Village] and invested more resources into our e-commerce business, and we’ve seen the results of that. We’re a small company, and we can adapt quickly to changes and see nice progress when we refocus our efforts in new ways.”

How has the retail shop benefited the brand?
“Having opportunities to connect with customers in the shop and at trunk shows across the country completes my design journey each season. I feel like my shoes aren’t finished until they’re being enjoyed on people’s feet. A customer, returning to get some new shoes once told me that every time he puts on my shoes, he’s reminded of my history studying cobbling in Holland, and it made him happy to have my shoes on his feet.”

How would you describe your approach to design?
“Designing shoes for men is challenging — in some ways more than designing for women. Men can be more reluctant to try new styles or colors. My aim with every men’s collection I design is to find that perfect balance of whimsy and wearability.”

Noah Waxman fall ’18 Perry sneaker style.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Noah Waxman

During the design process, whom do you envision wearing your shoes?
“Without sounding egotistical: myself. I’ve been passionate about shoes my entire life — studying them, dissecting them, building them, meditating on them. I start with what excites me, and I think about how I live day to day and what I need shoewise. I also mine my travels and years living abroad for inspiration. I’ve been lucky that people appreciate what I create, and come back for more. I try to design for women in a similar fashion as for men: guided by quality, comfort, timeless design and whimsy. My women’s collection is inspired by classic men’s styles, but women will go places with the shoes men typically will not. So that’s fun for me; I’m excited for the adventure.”

What other designers have most influenced your collection?
“My biggest shoe idol is Joan Helpern, the late, great designer of Joan & David. Her designs were so influential on me. She married a European sensibility with an American spirit. She blended masculine details beautifully into her women’s line and managed to do the same, so cleverly, with her way-too-short-lived men’s line (of which I have several vintage pairs). Most importantly, Joan designed for how people — women primarily — really lived. That’s so important to me, building great shoes that people wear for fancy and quotidian occasions alike. As I move into designing women’s shoes, Joan’s spirit is a guiding force.”

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