Vince Camuto has already struck gold twice, but he still has the passion of a young entrepreneur.
As his company, the Camuto Group, continues to see rapid growth, the footwear veteran engaged FN’s summit audience with a conversation about his career highs and the big brands he has made successful.
From reinventing Nine West and creating his namesake firm from scratch to working with powerhouse fashion designer Tory Burch and building one of the hottest celebrity lines in the market, Camuto reflected on the past and unveiled his bold vision for the future.
On transforming Nine West in the late 1980s:
“We wanted a higher price … so we changed the logo to what it is now. You have to go with your gut instinct. All the focus groups said you can’t change a 10-year-old brand. But we changed the dynamics, with prices [higher by] $10 to $15 a pair, and we didn’t lose any market share. In fact, Nine West had some of its best business in the early 1990s.”
On getting back into footwear:
“I didn’t have any intention to get back into the business. When the noncompete [clause in the Nine West sale] ended, [an opportunity arose to create several brands for Dillard’s]. In 2003, we were able to help Max Azria. We took over his license and built the BCBG business.”
On creating a company culture:
“The best part [of creating the Camuto Group] was dealing with a clean slate. Culture is everything. I always learned to treat everyone well. Everybody wants to feel good about what they’re doing.”
On building a retail portfolio:
“We’re not heavy at all in retail [now]. We have a plan for some retail stores. We will be taking over the Shoebox stores in New York with Richie Kirshenbaum and turning them into Vince Camuto stores in June or July, and we’ll have about 11 other stores.”
On working with Tory Burch:
“Tory is a friend, and she’s turned out to be a great partner. I didn’t know how big it was going to be. She had a vision. It was a great success story. Her shoe business is still flourishing.”
On signing Jessica Simpson’s master license:
“We liked who she represented. She was more natural [than other celebrities]. But we didn’t want to do it unless we had the master license because we wanted to create it. Today, we’re proud to say it will be a $1 billion business [in 2012]. This year, it will probably be $900 million. Footwear is on fire. That doesn’t mean we have to go out and get another five celebrities. All celebrities want their own product, but a lot of it hasn’t worked. Why does hers work and the others don’t? I can only say that Jessica and her mom are involved. We have a team in Los Angeles. She’s become a style icon.”
On his biggest challenge now:
“In the next five years, we have said we will double our business. Today, at retail, we are about $2.5 billion. But after listening [to everyone] here, we’re too conservative. I think we’ll double the plan.”