LLM – Luxury Lifestyle Magazine recently had the pleasure of chatting with shoe designer Mark Schwartz. Schwartz is the former creative director for Roger Vivier who, over his 37-year career as a footwear designer, has graced the top fashion runways of Milan, New York and Paris as well as front covers of magazines such as Vogue and Elle.
It was Schwartz that convinced his mentor, the legendary Roger Vivier to introduce more colour into his designs and helping to increase the brand’s ever-growing popularity. Over the years he has had the privilege of collaborating with fashion houses Gucci, Chanel, Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Charles Jourdan, Hermes to name but a few.
Whilst his closest peers Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik had spent their careers aiming for fame and recognition, the ever-shy Mark Schwartz preferred to remain in the background and out of the spotlight, content with letting the well-known brands take credit for his work and remaining unknown outside of the industry. Although his women’s shoes were adored, you could say he was the Banksy of the shoe industry, to the point that Oprah Winfrey even once stopped mid interview during one of her shows and said, “let’s not talk about this anymore, let’s talk about my boots”. At which point she got up and gave her infamous Oprah twirl and said “I don’t know who Mark Schwartz is but I love his shoes”.
It wasn’t until the mid-nighties that Schwartz finally opened his own boutique in New York’s fashionable Soho. With a cheeky smile, he tells the story of a typical evening when he was working late and in walks a tall slender lady with a headscarf and dark glasses wanting assistance and acting very coy. Being the only person in the shop at the time Mark began serving the customer who raved about the shoes, it wasn’t until she had set aside numerous pairs for purchase that he released his mysterious customer was Sharon Stone, who alongside Susan Sarandon then became one of his most regular clients.
Schwartz has been commissioned by some of the most notable celebrities to custom design their shoes, including Madonna, Julia Roberts, Julia Louis – Dreyfus, Natasha Richardson, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gianna Milani, and Wendy Williams to name a few.
Having spent years designing and creating beautiful bespoke shoes for women, Schwartz has decided to concentrate his efforts on men’s shoes, although he still takes private women’s shoe commissions for the rich and famous. His new Spring / Summer 2021 collection is all about colour and definition. He says one of the driving forces behind this collection was on the back of the new covid vaccinations and moving in the direction towards a brighter future. This is very visible in the vivid China red colour of his suede chip loafer as well as the vibrant azure blue and rich taupe in this collection.
In keeping with the azure blue and taupe, is the Charlz boot, which is Schwartz’s take on the classic chukka boot, made with the same a soft nubuck suede. The Charlz is also available in a two-tone green a taupe as well as the blue combination. For those who prefer a lace up shoe, the Dart shoe offers a twist on the classic signature Mark Schwartz lace up and offers a denim and suede mix to give a subtle and versatile transition from spring into summer as well as from a casual to a dress shoe. The Dart is available in both blue suede denim mix and black. This collection is named the La Mia Vita collection as Schwartz feels the inspiration has been taken from many different aspects of his life including current issues that have impacted the lives of so many over the last year and feels there is a shoe within the collection that everyone can relate to in some form.
Having spent many years being mentored by his good friend and artist Andy Warhol, it was also very important to Schwartz that this collection reflect upon his artwork of which he is very passionate about and sells under the highheeledart.com umbrella.
Schwartz fondly recalls: “It was a Tuesday afternoon in February 1984 that I met Andy (Warhol) who was friendly with Roger (Vivier) and had been told by him that he had a young creative director that he had groomed to run the American operation when he was overseas, and so Andy had decided he wanted to meet me. I was sitting in my office above the boutique when the store manager called up saying Andy Warhol was here and had requested to meet me. My first reaction was, who is Andy Warhol? I had seen him a few times around New York but it had never occurred to me that the famous artist this was the same Andy Warhol who was requesting to meet me.
“We sat in my office chatting for about 20 minutes until Warhol had to leave but returned to see him again the following week, then every Tuesday at 2pm right until his premature passing in February 1987. We would sit and chat and sketch shoes together and soon became close friends, with Warhol mentoring me and pushing me to pursue his love of drawing and sketching”.
Schwartz sold his first painting in 1993 which was of a red shoe and was hanging in his home, but he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and agreed to sell the piece and continued selling his art from that day. Schwartz tells of how his art and time with Warhol was one of the inspirations behind the ‘La Mia Vita’ (which translates as ‘My Life’) Collection.
This collection also comprises both boots and loafers using a weatherproofed durable canvas to give an artsy feel, which has been screen printed using his original hand painted designs. Schwartz said: “This is a very personal collection for me, as not only can I now wear my own shoes, but I have managed to encapsule my love of art and passion for design. Andy (Warhol) and I used to sit in my office doodling on magazines talking about how much fun it might be to physically have some of our paintings on actual shoes. Nobody else is doing this and it is something I intend to continue exploring within my future collections. Looking at the collection this aspect part of the collection Schwartz agrees that it has an unintentional Jackson Pollock feel.
“Men’s footwear as a rule does not always have the scope to be as adventurous and playful as women’s shoes and so this is something I want to change as men too should have the opportunity to express themselves as much or as little as they please via their fashion choices”.
All his men’s shoes are hand made to order in Florence, Italy with Mr Schwartz overseeing every stitch to create the perfect custom men’s shoe. The La Mia Vita Collection starts from approximately £525 / $595 and is available on pre order from markschwartzmensshoes.com with complimentary worldwide shipping.