Joseph Philip “Joe” Famolare Jr., who combined a heritage in shoemaking with the instincts of an entertainer to produce a number of the signature footwear trends in the Seventies and Eighties as the president of Famolare Inc., has died at the age of 82.
He died of cancer at his home in Putney, Vt., on Thursday.
His Italian-made, molded wavy-sole platform shoes, dubbed the Get There, were a staple of the era, forever associated with the hip-hugging bell-bottom jeans that frequently sat just above them. Yet Famolare was as focused on function as he was on fashion. This came as much from his background as a patternmaker working for his father’s shoe business in Boston as from subsequent tenures at Capezio, where he designed shoes for Broadway dancers, members of the Bolshoi Ballet and Twyla Tharp’s dance company, and at Bandolino.
“With a wife and two daughters, he never accepted the idea that a woman’s feet should hurt because she was wearing a high heel,” said his daughter Bibiana Famolare Heymann. “And he knew how to go into a factory and make sure that the shoes that came out of it looked right, fit right and wore right. He knew how to get the foot and the shoe working together properly.”
Famolare received a Coty award in 1973 for shoes which were “ergonomically designed and quite ahead of their time,” said Diane Forden, the editor in chief of Bridal Guide magazine, who first saw them during an early editorial stint at Seventeen magazine.
Famolare deviated from standard operating procedure not only in the style and construction of the shoes that bore the family name but also in their promotion. A brief hiatus from his father’s business as a nightclub singer had provided him with confidence as a public speaker as well as an appreciation of the value of theater.
“He was sort of the Barnum & Bailey of footwear,” said his younger daughter, Hilary Famolare. “He could promote and sell anything.”
Initially looking to avoid imagery that focused on women’s legs and might be viewed as sexist, Famolare became the face of his company’s campaigns, which were devised by Jane Trahey and shot on several occasions by Richard Avedon. He was often surrounded by his own shoes in the ads, but Trahey saw him as an enormous asset.
“Why should I get a model when I have Joe?” Trahey told People magazine. “He is extremely photogenic and radiates friendliness. Joe’s teeth are so beautiful, his dentist should pay him.”
His promotional toolbox included a crowded calendar of personal appearances. Hilary noted that her father sold Nordstrom Inc.’s Bruce Nordstrom on the viability of his efforts with in-store events “where people just went nuts. He brought cultural and social meaning to the shoes and broadened the audience with shoes for older women, for men and for kids.”
As sales moved past $100 million, his patented styles were not only imitated but often litigated as footwear makers sought to capitalize on his popular looks.
Indulging a lifelong love of flying, he received his pilot’s license in his early 60s and frequently flew in and out of his home in Vermont, where he founded the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center, a renovated farm that served as an education site bringing together business, government and agriculture, in Brattleboro. He continued to work at VABEC until just before his death.
A memorial service will be held at VABEC from 1 to 3 p.m. on Aug. 4.
In addition to his daughters, he is survived by Sandra, his wife of 55 years; his brother, Leo; two grandsons, and two granddaughters.
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)