Vince Camuto, who died of cancer in January, was a mentor.
He was a few years ahead of me in the business, and I always looked to him for advice. I trusted him, and knew he never had any ulterior motives—he just gave me his genuine point of view.
His advice was always: “Just do it.” The Nike slogan had come out, yes, but it was Vince’s motto. He would come up with ideas, stand firm, and execute them. I remember talking to him when I was having some tough times, and he said, “These times will pass. You have to be patient, you have to look ahead.” It was fatherly advice, but he knew what he was talking about.
The first company he founded, Nine West, was way ahead of the game, especially in terms of offering luxury fashion products at lower price points. He was a true genius doing that—long before any of these other people today. When he sold Nine West in 1999, he took a few years to himself. But then he came back into the business, founding Camuto Group—and in a staggeringly short period of time, it became a global, iconic brand. When it came to women’s footwear, he had a magic touch and an eye that was a true gift from God.
Later in his life, he got into menswear. He was modern in his taste, and I think he and his great team really took the essence of who he was and put it into the menswear. He was an Italian-American who loved his home country, and knew that Italian quality was so much better than that of any other country in the world. He looked back to Italy for inspiration—whether it was the cut of the jacket or the fabric of the shirt.
He’s responsible for so much classic elegance everywhere, and that’s never going away.
—As told to Keenan Mayo