Way back when, when I was actually an indoctrinated member of high school (about five months ago) I was assigned the task of writing up a report on a shoe designer for my clothing class. The suggestions listed on the board were predictable; Jimmy Choo, Manolo. But earlier that week I had received a box smelling of fresh leather and ecstasy that held in it my newly coveted Jeffrey Campbell cut-out ankle boots. I had to write about him, you know, let my middle aged clothing teacher in on the J.C. action. So, after finding the internet stratosphere lacking of any interesting information on my favorite affordable designer, I emailed the personal relations department of the brand and this interview is what ensued:
Jeffrey Campbell’s shoes have always been a bit different, evoking a sense of free spirit and creativity. Campbell’s brand is still young, just nine years old and is based in LA but he’s already made a name for himself. Everything about the brand has personality, right down to the shoe boxes. The inside of one box actually features the scanned image of a love letter the LA office received telling the tale of a memorable and romantic encounter involving Jeffrey Campbell shoes. In search of the history of the brand, I contacted Ty McBride who works out of the company’s New York showroom with a few questions. I was promptly redirected to the man himself, Jeffrey Campbell and was granted access into the mind of a shoe demigod. I began by asking, why the shoe industry? Did you always plan on designing or did it just happen?
Jeffrey Campbell: I started working at the Seattle Nordstrom when I was 18 in the stock room. It was a job, it was fun and I liked the work. It started there. I moved onto the floor, and then off the floor and starting repping several lines. That was many many years ago now. I have just slowly grown and learned from everyone I have worked for and with. I started my own brand ten years ago with the help and encouragement of my wife.
Having read his bio featured on his website, I learned that the brand was born from his garage so I asked, how did it begin exactly in that garage?
JC: Well, not exactly, but we are a small company, a family owned company. I still house our operations and LA office out of my home, my staff has makeshift offices in our back garage. My entire staff is like family.
What was the first pair of shoes you designed?
JC: So many early ones. The first collection(s) were made in Spain, so lots of interesting fabrications and treatments like holographic prints and splatter painted leathers. Lots of novelty.
Did you attend school for the craft?
JC: I simply started working in the industry and worked my way up since I was 18. I took the long hard route; in fact, I still am on that route. STILL learning.
What do you wish to be known for?
JC: I only wish to be known for a great shoe that is fun, affordable and comfortable. That is what we search for every day. We never want to be boring or to be monitored by the industry. We always are influenced by what is going on, but we are known for our own takes on those things. We have very fun clients, this continues to help.
What type of girl would you love to see walking down the street, strutting in your shoes?
JC: We are lucky to see a Jeffrey nearly every day on the foot. We love vintage girls and the looks they use to incorporate our shoes. I always shop vintage with my daughters this is their look as well, they have amazing style despite being young.
And lastly, and most importantly, what are your favorite shoes that you own?
JC: I actually wear basic shoes most of the time, I wear a lot of loafers and dress shoes. I wear a lot of the shoes from the Jeffrey Campbell Men’s line called FIRST. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of metallic shoes.