Luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman shares advice on life and career goals at Pomona College

Weitzman speaks at a podium
Stuart Weitzman invited to Pomona College (Wendy Zhang • The Student Life)

On Nov. 2, luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman spoke to a crowded Rose Hills Theater at Pomona College. Weitzman offered his life and career advice, sharing his mantra of taking the “road less traveled,” a quote originally penned by poet Robert Frost.

Weitzman offered sound advice while recalling the journey of his 60-year shoe-making journey. Starting his career by designing shoes for his father’s company in the early 1960s, Weitzman received his big break when singer Aretha Franklin thanked him for making her one-of-a-kind heels at the 1983 American Music Awards.

“I got lucky,” Weitzman said. “I called a stylist I met at the previous company [and told her] if she can get any celebrities to dress … I can make them custom shoes. [I] became the shoemaker for the stars.”

Weitzman also spoke about his company’s influential ad campaigns, from the pumpkin carvings of his shoes to his dog, a Dalmatian, that had his shoes for spots. Run in magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, each ad put thousands of eyes onto his designs through clever and innovative marketing techniques. He attributed his success to his creative directors’ ability to synthesize the mission of selling luxury footwear with principles influencing his career: imagination and inspiration.

“You’ll hear a lot of the things we’ve done that show that imagination always played a role,” Weitzman said. “You have to be able to get inspiration. You can’t sit in a closet and come up with the greatest design or the greatest software all by yourself.”

Toward the end of his talk, Weitzman had several 5C students model his iconic shoes. Each student strutted around the room wearing Weitzman’s designs — one student even wore his $1 million high heels that included 464 diamonds and were worn by actress Laura Harring to the 2002 Academy Awards. After the modeling portion ended, Weitzman offered one last piece of advice for students.

“You’ve gotta be able to sell yourself and it doesn’t matter where you start,” Weitzman said. “So if you love it, go for it and don’t let anyone shut you down. You’ve gotta be your biggest voice.”

“You’ve gotta be able to sell yourself and it doesn’t matter where you start,” Weitzman said. “So if you love it, go for it and don’t let anyone shut you down. You’ve gotta be your biggest voice.”

Hazel Raja, Pomona director of career development and chief organizer of this event, explained Weitzman’s career journey could serve as an important lesson for all 5C students.

“Especially in liberal arts campuses, there is that question of ‘What can I do after I graduate?’” Raja said. “So we want to really encourage [students] to think outside the box; to kind of take control over what possibilities one can explore.”

For attendee Dana Hussein PZ ’25, despite being a cognitive science major, it was always her childhood dream to work in the fashion industry — a dream that not only introduced her to Weitzman’s designs but also motivated her to attend the event on a Thursday night.

“Although it’s not in my academic path, I still always have that kind of dream within me,” Hussein said. “I think [Weitzman] just brought it back to life.”

Hussein also valued Weitzman’s advocacy for collaboration and community involvement throughout his speech.

“I think that what you would expect from a designer in a corporate world is to be a very individualistic type of person, which I think for our generation can be a little bit stressful to imagine,” Hussein said. “But his emphasis on community even in such a fast-paced world is inspiring and shows that you can succeed with your community.”

When the event finished, Sascha Weiss PO ’26 immediately wrote on her hand, “Run your career the same way you want to live your life,” advice Weitzman called “Stu-isms” that he gave to the crowd during his talk.

“Stuart Weitzman has always held a special sort of place in my mind and heart for being a luxury shoe brand and for being [a] fancy, high-end elegant classic shoe brand,” Weiss said. “Stuart White was the first pair of fancy high heel designer shoes I ever had.

Raja elaborated on her admiration for Weitzman, stating that his company’s values of community impact, ambition and pursuing imaginative design are all important tools for 5C students to employ in their own lives.

“Individual values are very hard to have stability [compared to] the salary and benefits but if there’s a way for you to merge both your interests with your values, go for it,” Raja said.

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