John Vincent Camuto, commonly known as “Vince,” was born June 4, 1936 in New York City. Vince’s father, Luigi Camuto, was an artisan who immigrated from Sicily and died when Vince was just two years old. His mother, Louise Zenga Camuto, worked as a seamstress to support the family.
Camuto went to work for the Sudbury Shoe Company in the early 1960s, entering the world of shoe manufacturing for the first time. He was instrumental in helping to turn around one of the company’s floundering factories, located in Farmington, Maine.
In 1968 Camuto met fellow shoe industry professional Jerome “Jack” Fisher aboard an airplane. The pair decided to go into business together, initially working with Japanese import giant Sumitomo Corporation to develop shoe manufacturing in Brazil for the Japanese market. The experience was revelatory for Camuto, who later recalled:
“The minute I walked into those factories in Brazil, my eyes opened as wide as could be. I couldn’t believe the size of these factories — and that they were empty. With some infrastructure and money, I knew there was so much potential.”
In 1977, Camuto and Fisher broke free to form their own company, Fisher Camuto, forerunner of Nine West Group. The company’s name was taken from a number the pair spied on a neighboring building from their office on Manhattan’s 57th Street.
The company combined fashionable designs with popular prices, making use of Brazilian factories for the bulk of its production. The company was a pioneer in the wholesaling of quality footwear in “case packs” of predesignated sizes. This enabled Fisher Camuto to achieve great efficiencies in warehousing and to match supply with demand, thereby limiting losses through overproduction. Nine West also effectively grew in size and public consciousness through its establishment of a network of company “concept stores” in urban centers across the United States.
After serving as creative director of Nine West, in 1993 Fisher was appointed CEO as the company was taken public. In 1999, Nine West was sold to Jones Apparel Group for $900 million.
In August 2001, together with his wife Louise Camuto, Vince Camuto established Camuto Group, which provides design, sourcing, marketing and production services retailers. The following year, he launched four footwear brands for Dillard’s Department Stores, including Antonio Melani, Gianni Bini, Nurture, and Michelle D. Later that year, he acquired the footwear licenses for BCBG, Max Azria and BCBGirls.
In 2005, he launched his namesake footwear line, Vince Camuto. Closely thereafter in 2006, he partnered with Tory Burch to launch her footwear collection and collaborated with her to create the Reva ballet flat. In 2009, the company added Lucky Brand Jeans footwear and kensiegirl footwear to its portfolio and later launched a handbag collection.
In 2005, Camuto purchased the master license for Jessica Simpson. Two years later, he opened the first Jessica Simpson Collection shop-in-shop at Macy’s Herald Square, New York. Additional shops have opened in other cities. As of February 2014, the brand is worth $1 billion.