Vince Camuto, legendary women’s shoe designer, died in his Greenwich, Connecticut, home Wednesday at age 78, Women’s Wear Daily reports (subscription required). The cause of death was cancer.
In 1978, Camuto founded Nine West, which became one of the most successful women’s footwear brands of the ’80s and ’90s. After selling the company for almost $900 million to the Jones Group in 1999, Camuto built a multibillion-dollar shoe empire with a variety of brands ranging dramatically in style and affordability. He launched the Jessica Simpson brand, which today brings in $1 billion in sales per year with its stylish and affordable women’s shoes. In 2001, he launched the Camuto Group, which led him to develop his namesake brand, as well as the labels VC Signature Vince Camuto and Louise et Cie.
Camuto also had footwear licenses with the likes of Lucky Brand, BCBG Max Azria, and Tory Burch. He created private-label shoes for Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Dillard’s. His shoes are sold by major retailers around the world, as well as at 30 Camuto-owned boutiques.
Born and raised in New York City, Camuto started his career at age 18, handling customer complaints at I. Miller shoes. “I really listened and learned, especially from the women. They told you what they liked, what they didn’t like,” Camuto once said of his early experiences helping customers with uncomfortable footwear. When it came to his own designs, he said, “We don’t think that we can fool her. We give her the best value.”