Amy Jo Gladstone: The Queen of Shoes
What is the one thing that no woman can have enough of? What tiny piece of frippery can make a woman swoon, go rabid, or pay thousands of dollars to own? Yet wear for maybe fifteen minutes? SHOES! Yes, shoes are a womanís best friend and worst enemy. Amy Jo Gladstone understands our obsession with cute sexy shoes.
On screen, her monogrammed slippers adorned Julia Robertsí feet in Oceans Twelve. Off-screen her shoes, sandals and slippers have made editors at Oprah, USA Today, In Style, Bazaar and other mags swoon. Countless women want to hug her. Why? Because she has actually made sexy, classy and fun shoes that are (gasp) low heeled!
Both of Amy Joís parents were in fashion. Her mother was a COTY award winner and her father was a force in the apparel market. In the 80ís she began designing custom jewelry. While she was very successful, Amy Jo wanted to try something else. So Amy Jo entered the shoe business in 1994. And she has become wildly victorious in a fickle field.
Working from her factory in Bronx, NY her four lines; Collection (stylish, chic wedges, slides, mules and monogrammed shoes), Needlepoint (needlepoint slippers of pedigreed dogs and horses), Lifestyle (velvet slippers, sandals) and Spa (foot wear for home and spa) have shod feet across America and Japan.
They have become a ďgoodie bagĒ staple. Gift certificates for her custom monogrammed slippers were in the bag at this past yearís Oscars. Recently Leonardo DiCaprio bought a pair of the aforementioned slippers for his mom. They are quickly becoming a must for A-listers. They have become the shoe of choice for women who want a smart, sexy shoe that they can walk in.
Amy Jo: First Person
EDGEBoston recently caught up with Amy Jo. We were able to ask her everything from whatís good on a first date to what to look for in a shoe.
EB: We women (I think) are predisposed to love shoes. What was the creative spark that led you to design shoes? And more specifically low heeled shoes?
Amy Jo: Ten years ago, I saw a void that I couldnít walk away from. None of the small businesses I read about, or the retailers I talked to were taking a serious look at the footwear market. It was all either Grandmaís fuzzy slippers or 6-inch stilettos. There was nothing in between Ė nothing for the woman who wanted something stylish and sexy that didnít kill her feet, nothing with personality and complexity.
After 2 surgeries and a series of foot problems, Iíd have to say that I just canít wear heels and I feel many women face this same issue. Iíve made shoes with 1 inch or less; heels that are still feminine and stylish.
EB: How did you learn to create shoes?
Amy Jo: By watching a patternmaker and shoemaker and learning the basics. I met him through networking, networking, networking!
EB: What inspires you? Is it varied? Do you have a muse? Or do you just get a feeling an urge that says ďmake this shoe!Ē
Amy Jo: I guess itís varied. I like to call myself an artist and when I get a vision I just need to create it. I read a lot and talk with friends and family, as well as my customers and prospects at trade shows; to get their sense on things, too.
EB: How do you know when a shoe is ďright,Ē or when itís ďwrongĒ? Do you have people road test them for you, or do you road test them yourself?
Amy Jo: I can just feel when a shoe is right for me. However, that doesnít mean it will be our best seller or that everyone in the office will love it. I like to test some of my shoes on people I trustótheir opinion matters to me. Itís important for me to pay attention to the market while retaining my vision.
EB: Have you ever designed a shoe that the rest of your team hated and ended up being a winner?
Amy Jo: Yes, Style 61051. Itís a black velvet slipper with a big bow.
EB: How many people do you have on your creative team? How do you work together to create a design or do you?
Amy Jo: Ultimately, I am the creative team. I do work very closely with my patternmaker to create the styles I envision.
EB: Whatís your favorite shoe? Why? Or do you have more than one?
Amy Jo: Itís an old model that Iíve been thinking about bringing back on the market. Itís a leopard slide with short fur. The strap is fat and mushy. These are winter slides and really cozy.
EB: Whatís your favorite fabric to work with and why?
Amy Jo: I love the touch of short polyester leopard, velvet and the new micro- terry.
EB: Whatís the easiest and the hardest type of shoe to design and why?
Amy Jo: There are no shortcuts. All of my styles are complex in their own way, yet they start out very simple.
EB: What shoe trend do you love i.e. fabric, toe, style?
AmyJo : Flats! The world doesnít need another pair of uncomfortable shoes for women. There are still so many ways to be feminine and stylish in flats or low-heeled shoes. I love experimenting with fun fabrics like terrycloth and velvet, and anything soft or colorful.
EB: What shoe trend do you dislike? What is it about the trend you donít like?
Amy Jo: I donít like high heels, especially those with no support around the front of the foot, or those that donít have soft insole/lining.
EB: Do you think itís true when people say your personality is reflected in your shoes?
Amy Jo: Absolutely. My style is comfortable and simple, but still feminine and stylish Ė just like my designs. I design for the woman who dresses in a classic and simple manner, and chooses to express herself through accessories such as shoes and jewelry.
EB: What is the perfect shoe for a first date? Me, Iím thinking about your animal print mules!
Amy Jo: It definitely depends on your personality. I think you should wear something you feel comfortable in, something that reflects who you are. Of course, it also depends on your mood.
EB: What are the dos and doníts for wearing sandals?
Amy Jo: The trouble is that during the summer it’s very easy to become too casual. And that doesn’t always work in the professional world. It definitely depends on your work environment. To play it safe, I suggest flats, mules, kitten-heeled shoes or moccasins to accessorize your outfit.
EB: You rose to fame when your custom monogrammed slippers graced Julia Roberts feet in Oceanís 12- how did it feel to see your shoes onscreen?
Amy Jo: It was a great feeling Ė I never thought Iíd make it this far.
EB: Your shoes have become a definitive ďgoodie bagĒ ingredient at A-list events like the Oscars. How did that happen? When you got the call were you nervous, or did you think someone was pulling a prank on you?
Amy Jo: There are several gift bag opportunities out there. Itís a matter of identifying which ones make sense for us. I think thereís a real interest right now for celebrities who are seeking more comfort in their footwear as well as their clothes
EB: You have a lot of celebrity clients- I just read that Leonardo DiCaprio a pair of your monogrammed slippers for his mom- congratulations!
Amy Jo: Yes, it was Leonardo DiCaprio who ordered a pair of velvet monograms for his mom, Irmalin DiCaprio. And I was very excited!
EB: What celebrity would you love to wear your shoes?
Amy Jo: Oprah! Sheís such a strong woman and has great style.
EB: When we women are shoe shopping, what should we look for in a shoe?
Amy Jo: The perfect balance between style and comfort. Thereís no need to sacrifice one for the other.
EB: Youíre showing yummy animal prints for fall- do you think thatís going to be a big trend?
Amy Jo: Animal prints are always in style. However, Iíve definitely seen more animal prints this fall than in the past. Iím really excited about it.
EB: Do you think you might branch out to boots, bags, belts and other accessories?
AmyJo: Iím always thinking about new things and watching the market. Itís always a possibility, but I still feel thereís so much to explore in the niche Iíve created.
EB: Will we find your shoes in Europe soon?
Amy Jo: I do sell in Tokyo, Japan and weíre always looking to expand. In the past, we have sold in some European countries.
EB: Do you plan to have any ďAmy Jo GladstoneĒ stores throughout the country?
Amy Jo: At the moment, this is not in our current plan. However, itís something I think about for the future. Currently, my collections are available online and at many retail and specialty stores.
You can look over, lust after and buy her line at her website, www.amyjogladstone.com . Or you can visit her shoes at Linens on the Hill, Lynn52 Charles Street. Boston, Showcase at Canyon Ranch, 165 Kemble Street, Lenox, or Murray’s Toggery, 62-68 Main Street, Nantucket.
Just donít blame us if you get carried away and buy all her shoes.