Dick Jacobson, co-founder and former president of the Footwear Fashion Association of New York (FFANY), died on May 25 of cancer. He was 96.
The industry veteran, whose passion and commitment to the footwear industry was hard to match, was instrumental in bringing companies big and small together to promote the shoe business. He helped raise the profile of the industry, bringing celebrities together in support of QVC Presents FFANY Shoes on Sale, a charity event that to date has raised more than $55 million on behalf of breast cancer research.
In a 2010 interview with FN, Jacobson said, “The first 20 years [of FFANY] were the building stages. We wanted to do something that united fashion shoe companies. We wanted to do something exciting. FFANY brought a showbiz attitude to the footwear industry. We became known for our big parties and events. We were fortunate to build something within the footwear industry, and we’re still building something. … I’m happy FFANY is in good hands and that it continues to be successful.”
Jacobson, who retired from his role at FFANY in 1998, later shared the stage with former President Bill Clinton at a 2000 Shoes on Sale event, where the former U.S. president lent his support to the cause.
According to his wife, Carol Jacobson, the footwear leader has had a lasting impact on the industry. “Dick was one of the first when it came to spearheading manufacturing in other countries,” she said. “It was a craftsman’s industry, but now [people don’t have to be] wealthy to afford fashion shoes.”
Jacobson entered the shoe industry after World War II as a sales official with Sandler of Boston, then joined fashion company Nina Footwear as EVP. However, it was his role at FFANY that gave him the most pride.
Recalled Jacobson in a 1995 interview with FN, “I love what I do, I’ve always loved the footwear industry. I think I’ve enjoyed the position at FFANY more than anything I’ve ever done.”
Flori Silverstein, creative director at Nina Footwear, who worked alongside Jacobson, recalled, “Dick was my first boss at Nina, and what an education that was. Peacemaker, negotiator, salesman were just a few of the hats he wore. His colorful stories of days as a young fighter pilot or his time at Sandler of Boston kept us all enthralled. His vision and passion for the industry was boundless. He put his whole heart into everything he did. He brought so much to the industry, always with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He was generous with his time and wisdom. He was truly an original.”
Scott Silverstein, president of Silverstein Co. and former CEO of Nina Footwear, praised Jacobson’s unique understanding of the marketplace. “He was a real marketer. He wasn’t selling shoes in the way everyone else was. He was marketing product. While salesmen took all the credit, he recognized that really wasn’t the case. It was the brand, design, image. It was very interesting to watch and learn from him.”
Phyllis Rein, former EVP of FFANY, noted, “Dick was one of kind. He was my mentor as well as a great friend. His beloved stories and life experiences were always extremely fascinating. He will truly be missed by all, as he was an amazing human being.”
For Sam Edelman, founder of Sam Edelman, his friendship with Jacobson goes back decades. “I first met Dick Jacobson when I was 22, interviewing for my first job in the shoe business,” he recalled. “He was the EVP of Nina Footwear. During the ensuing years, I had the privilege of spending time with him at FFANY. Dick was always a gentleman, caring and so respectful of other people. He will be remembered for his positive energy and incredible commitment and contribution to our industry.”
Additionally, former FN executive editor Dick Silverman also shared his memories of the FFANY leader. “Dick was one of the dearest friends the shoe industry ever had, bringing a litany of celebrities, presidents and famous international CEOs to FFANY events. He lived and breathed the shoe industry, and was one of the closest friends it’s ever had.”
Jacobson is survived by his daughter, Joanne Corman, two granddaughters and a great-grandson.
A military funeral is scheduled for May 29 in Florida.
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