Stuart Weitzman’s Historical Shoe Collection Includes Heels From the 1800s

A year after Stuart Weitzman said farewell to his eponymous company, the designer is relishing retirement — but not for the reasons you might think.

“I did one thing my whole life, and now I’m doing 11,” he said. “I couldn’t do any of it if I was still making a collection every three months.”

One of Weitzman’s biggest projects, an exhibition that spotlights his deep passion for shoes, will be unveiled this month. “Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes” opens April 20 at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library and will run through Oct. 8.

“My antique shoe collection became inspirational for me. The styles tell cultural stories,” Weitzman said. “I give my wife [Jane Weitzman] credit because she started buying me them as gifts [beginning when I was 28] and continued doing it. It went on and on. We had about 250 or 300 and culled them down into a collection.”

D'orsay evening shoes, vintage
D’orsay evening shoes, 1928.
CREDIT: Courtesy

Of course, some of the shoes that made the designer a household name during his career — including the Nudist, 50/50 boot and the “Million Dollar Shoe” — will also be on display.

“What’s amazing about this collection is that it is so interestingly assembled and reflects the taste and energy of Stuart and Jane. Stuart has thought about the shoes as a way to tell stories. He is such a raconteur,” said Valerie Paley, VP and chief historian of the museum and the director of its center for women’s history, where the exhibition will be housed.

As part of the project, the museum and the designer invited New York metro-area high school students to participate in a competition. They were asked to craft designs that fell into one of two categories — socially conscious fashion or material innovation. Weitzman will announce the winners at an opening reception on April 17.

While Weitzman has devoted a lot of his energy to the exhibition over the past year, he’s making time for a host of other projects. His favorite? Teaching a class at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he’s serving as an executive in residence and adjunct professor. In his lectures, Weitzman gives insights into building and marketing a brand — something he mastered during his time in the shoe business.

Terry de Havilland peep-toe platforms
Terry de Havilland peep-toe platforms, circa 1972.
CREDIT: Courtesy

“I guarantee I’m having more fun than the students are,” he said. Now the new teacher will begin appearing at other universities, including Harvard. A little farther from home, Weitzman is taking part in two major initiatives in his beloved Spain, where he produced his collection for decades. He’s teamed up with a good friend to build a museum celebrating Spanish-Jewish history.

Weitzman has also begun work on a preservation project involving Cantabria’s La Garma caves, which boast an impressive collection of rock art and archaeological remains from the Paleolithic age.

Stuart Weitzman
Stuart Weitzman
CREDIT: Courtesy

“After making money and having a great career in Spain, I thought about what I could do to make a mark,” Weitzman said. He also is determined to shine at the Veteran Table Tennis Championships, which will be held in Las Vegas in June, and has taken up tennis and skiing again. “I love my sports,” said Weitzman, who also is serving as a board member on the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Finally, the retiree hopes to soon make his Broadway debut. With a good friend from high school, Weitzman is producing a show about Andy Warhol’s life.

See more historic shoes from Stuart Weitzman’s collection in the gallery.

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