Sexy, flirty and fun
LIVIN' & LOVIN' - Tetta Matera () - May 9, 2012 - 12:00am

Try me!” the shoes were calling as I approached the store. Walking faster, feeling my endorphins rise like milk froth on a tasty cappuccino, I activated my Bionic-Woman-like vision into full-alert mode, scanning the storefront display then sizing up the wall-mounted shelves from left to right, front and back, not quite sure which direction to dash towards. Short of sprinting into the store, I knew I was about to enter shoe heaven on earth courtesy of Vince Camuto.

Try the shoes I did. From edgy wedges to fierce platforms, dainty sandals to killer stilettos and classic ballet flats to sky-high heels, I wore them all, walking around the store like I was on a fashion runway. At all heights and elevations, all the shoes felt good and looked stunning on the feet.

Vince Camuto surely knows his shoes. Born and raised in New York City of Italian descent, Camuto found his calling as a women’s footwear designer from when he was a baby staring at the spinning mobile of shoes hanging from his crib. Growing up, his fascination continued until he landed a job as a service complaint manager at an upscale shoe store on Fifth Avenue in New York. When he was moved to the floor to sell shoes, he instinctively knew what he was destined to do. 

In 1978 he co-founded and was the creative director of one of America’s most popular shoe brands. After it became public and was later sold to the Jones Apparel Group in 1999, Camuto went on his own. In August 2001, he established the Camuto Group, a company that provides design sourcing, marketing and production services to over 5,400 department stores and independent retailers throughout the world. From his Greenwich, Connecticut headquarters supported by several hundred employees, he launched his namesake footwear line Vince Camuto in 2005 and forged key partnerships with industry leaders such as Tory Burch, BCBG, Jessica Simpson (a good personal friend) and Banana Republic.

Today the 100-percent privately owned American company has 17 brands and 14 product categories under its belt, with the Jessica Simpson label as the largest, earning US$1 billion in annual sales and making Vince Camuto the fastest-growing line.

Shoe specialists: Greg Morel, vice president for international sales of the Camuto Group with Anton Huang, Stores Specialists Inc. executive vice president, on his visit to Manila.

Vince Camuto fills a void that department and specialty stores have left gaping by offering a unique mixture of quality, trend and price. The Vince Camuto collection is sophisticated and classic, positioned between the categories of designers and contemporary brands and fast-fashion, lower-priced labels. The Jessica Simpson line bears the “sexy, flirty and fun” DNA of the singer/actress with always of-the-moment designs that appeal to young women. The Vince Camuto Signature label is classic with a fashionable twist, ideal for the modern, fashion-forward women of the 21st century. BCBGeneration is a youthful and dynamic collection that represents the eclectic and spirited lifestyle of today’s generation. 

Despite an absence of formal training, Camuto has clearly mastered the art and business of shoemaking, even transforming the product offering into a lifestyle brand. Known for his hands-on approach and personal involvement in all aspects of the business, including the store’s interior design, he is an incredibly kind, enthusiastic, positive, intuitive and supportive CEO, says Greg Morel, vice president of international sales for the Camuto Group. Morel explains that while the company is avidly pursuing the expansion of their business, especially in Asia, Camuto himself is careful about selecting the right business partners for the international franchises so as not to compromise quality for growth and sales.

“The process of shoemaking is painstaking; from sketches to designs to prototypes, it takes six to eight months to finish one shoe design for production and our business partners must share this passion and commitment to quality with us,” he notes.

The Camuto Group employs over 80 designers for their shoes and handbag lines alone and although they do not own any of the factories that manufacture their products, they have their own people in full control of quality. For example, at their factories in China, Italian designers oversee production and certain employees are tasked to try on the prototypes until they meet the company’s strict, quality standards. “We plan to have 50 Vince Camuto stores worldwide by the end of 2012 and three of them will be in the Philippines, ” Morel announced.

While this might be perceived as slow by current fashion industry standards, the Camuto Group is looking at their prospects for the long, sustainable haul and judging by their impressive products, I’d say they are on the right track.

Sizzling Summer Styles

Morel told me that Vince Camuto’s true passion and focus has been and always will be on product and design. So I asked him which one among the spring/summer 2012 shoe designs is Mr. Camuto’s most favorite. He picked up and handed to me the Persh shoes; holding up the pair and carefully examining it, I could see why. Multi-colored, chunky heeled, five-inch-high sandals with platform and stud accents, they are definitely a chic pick for the summer heat.

So what other trends are hot on the fashion radar? Solid neons are surefire bold summer statements; patent leather and faux exotic skin like python with studs up the back or inside the heel and contrast color accents are the other stars hogging the limelight this season. Suede in dizzying shades has made a fierce comeback.  From the ground level up, all heels, from flat to mid-rise to sky-high are in — strappy sandals, ballerinas, wedges, platforms, chunky heels, and reed-thin stilettos all make for delicious shoe picking.  With prices starting from P2,650, who can resist Vince Camuto’s fabulous fashion deals?

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Vince Camuto is exclusively distributed by Stores Specialists, Inc. (SSI) and is located at Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City. Opening this month is Vince Camuto at Rustan’s Makati.

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