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A Fashionable Summer ~ Joe Famolare

Discussion in 'A Fashionable Summer 2005 (Asst. Designers)' started by Patentleathershoes, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Hi There!

    Welcome to this week's installment of "A Fashionable Summer". After the last workshop subject, Hattie Carnegie, we will be travelling slightly forward in time to the late 1960s through the 80s, where we discover the career and designs of Joe Famolare and the Famolare shoe company.

    I am not a "shoe expert" by any means, but in my opinion, Famolare is to Platform shoes what a Springolator is to Mule pumps. Where as the springolator's claim to fame was that one can supposedly run acrossed a room without losing your balance or your shoes due to the patented design, Famolare platforms also create a more stable walking environment than their contemporaries. I have long been a connoisuer of platform shoes and clunky shoes, and find that typically, the higher the platform, the more one teeters. So even though the springolator and the platform shoe seem worlds apart, in this sense they are cousins.

    In the late 60s-70s, as mentioned prior in Jonathan's excellent workshop on Shoes (check the archive), the late 60s began a large boom in comfortable foot wear and all sorts of "foot health" gimmicks - earth shoes, textured footbeds, etc. Part of the history of the Famolare shoe is contemporary to this, but in some ways also diverges.

    But we'll talk about that just a little later....so join me in learning about the designs...and the colorful life...of Joe Famolare....
  2. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Part I: The beginning

    Joe Famolare grew up in a third generation shoe making family. He was born in Boston and grew up in Chestnut Hill, which is a neighborhood/area on Boston's south side.

    His father, Joe Sr. owned Famolare Shoe Engineering, which was opened in 1934. The company made cutting patterns for the shoe industry.

    Joe Jr started working at the family business at the tender age of 12. Very cognizant of the child labor laws, Joe Sr. required him to pay income tax and file at that age. When he became the age of majority, he had already designed shoes and was a young executive at the family business.

    Despite this early sucess he deviated from the family business and started singing in nightclubs for tips!

    According to Joe himself: " I hated the shoe business. It was so dusty and boring, and the people didn't seem happy. I could sing, and I studied voice seriously, and I found that people liked to hear me sing. So I went to Emerson to be an actor."

    For the next several years, he attended Emerson college in Boston and pursued a degree in the musical theater. Midway through, his dreams were put on hold. He was drafted by the US Army. Joe served at the very tail end of the Korean war as a radio operator, broadcasting having been a minor in college studies.

    After he left the millitary, at age 23, he soon decided that a singing career was not for him. Despite his disenchantment with the shoe business, he learned that long, highly irregular hours of a musical career and the irregular and meager pay brought forth by relying on tips was not for him.

    Joe Sr. demanded that he could not just wander around "finding himself, that Joe Jr. needed to get a job. So, Joe was again hurdled into the shoe business and took night courses to finish a degree.

    His decided deviation from his roots was short lived indeed.

    He melded his two interests leaving the family business being hired at Capezio, reknowned in the dance shoe business... in 1960.
  3. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    !!!!!!!!!!!Celebrity Trivia Time!!!!

    We take a break from this workshop for a bit of celebrity trivia.

    When Joe Famolare joined Capezio shoes, what individual was working at Capezio as a custodian, as a talent yet to be discovered?

    Hints: You would have heard of them even if you weren't interested in fashion history. They are not most famous for shoes, although shoes have influenced their life. Their biggest claim to fame is outside of the world of clothing. So get out your list of "jobs of famous people before they were stars" list to add this one to.

    More hints (and the eventual answer) as the workshop progresses!

    You can ask Yes or No questions at any time for further hints. (or just guess too!)
  4. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Part 1.2: The Capezio and Bandolino Years

    Capezio was founded in 1887 by Salvatore Capezio and still exists today as a tristed source and household name for dance shoes, later on fashion shoes, and now competitive ice skates. During Joe's tenure he designed shoes for the Bolshoi Ballet and many others. Other highlights were designing shoes for the legendary Twyla Tharp's Dance company.

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/twyla.jpg" width=250 height=279>
    Twyla Tharp in the 60s.

    His designs and selections also most notably appeared in the original Broadway Production of West Side story. The "Dance Oxford" created by Joe especially for West Side Story is still in use on the stage to this very day.

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/westsidestory1.jpg" width=376 height=300>
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/westsidestory3.jpg" width=373 height=300><br>original press photos, The West Side Story official website

    In my opinion, heading for the theater not only gave him an understanding of what was required in active shoes but gave him a lot of inspiration on how to be savvy, unconventional marketer and promoter of his product. One instance later found him skating on a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade to promote his shoes!

    He left Capezio in 1965 over irreconcilable differences. Capezio was heading more and more into putting fashion before function, and wanting to break into the fashion market more while eliminating some comfort features in shoes, and Joe wanted to concentrate a little more on function.

    His next stop along the way, was in 1965, as an executive for Marx and Newman. He was in charge of their popular division, Bandolino shoes that were sold at Neiman Marcus and elsewhere . He not only was executive vice president but designed while he was there. I am not sure exactly which models he designed, but they all were at least selected by Joe even if he didn't design every single model during his tenure there. The company started to take a turn when Mr. Newman left the business, and as the company got more political, Joe decided that it was time to leave.

    In 1969, Joe formed Famolare shoes...and the rest, as they say, is history.
  5. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Part II Joe "Gets There"

    Despite many naysayers who thought he was crazy, when Joe saw the "writing on the wall" at Marx and Newman, he didn't cultivate his long list of business connections from all over the world. His business ethic and the personal commitment he made to the company just wouldn't permit his conscience to.

    He totally started from scratch with his new company. He had to start over with being the new guy and pitching his ideas to investors to get nickel one. But in the end, he charmed them with his ideas and his sense of showmanship.

    An early product was a molded clog, for which he won a Coty award in 1973. I have yet to find a photo of the original clog but will add it when i do!!!

    The original clog has been reinterpreted over the years and can be still seen today. A polyurethane model is particulary popular in Japan more recently..
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/japanclog.jpg" width=340 height=300>

    Even though the clog was a sensation in the fashion world from a design perspective, what really showcased Joe's abilities as a self promoter was the "Get There"

    The Get There took the world of platform shoes by storm.

    This ad appeared in magazines and newspapers everywhere as the "birth" of the Get There...featuring an implication that the Get There was carved out of marble like a masterpiece sculpture...
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/gettheresitead.jpg" width=217 height=300>

    This ad appeared in seventeen magazine, compliments of Lizzie Bramlett (stay tuned for her workshop on Swirl next week!! http://www.fuzzylizzievintage.com ) and featured Joe's rough pencil drawings of the 4 wave sole idea.
    <img src=http://members.sparedollar.com/fuzzylizzie/wsfamolare.jpg>

    Not only did he use the traditional means of print advertising to promote his product, such as shown below, but he even choreographed the "Get There" dance, and ran a contest for an aspiring song writer to perform the "Get There" song on a 45 rpm record, and the record was released and it became the theme song for them.

    Joe envisioned it as a yearly contest to find aspiring talent and spread the word about comfortable platform shoes that you could actually walk in! This didn't turn into a yearly contest, but it was something that burned the Get There in everyone's memory. They could read about it, dance about it and listen to it!

    If anyone ever finds the record, I would love to hear it.

    The secret behind the shoes, while many platform shoes of the day left one teetering, the Famolare platform shoe was well balanced and practical.

    The patented, 4 wave sole promotes posture and balance. Instead of having a main area of balance underneath the ball of the foot and then one under the heel, with a hollow at the arch, creating the "figure 8" style foot print, the foot print is a series of waves that helps one "roll" and flow when they walk as opposed to the other two mobility situations with platform shoes.

    Traditionally on platform shoes, either one has to walk toe first/ whole foot at once like a runway model or taking on the heavy handed heel toe gait similar to the Tin Man. In these, no one had to "hear you coming" with, as my elders used to say "a very unladylike sounding walk".

    The shoes not only hold a patent but are on display in the Smithsonian museum, and is also featured at the Costume, Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Cincinnati Museum of Art. So next time you are in the neighborhood...pay the exhibit a visit.

    Next....the famolare family of shoes...
  6. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    wow, this is an incredible amount of detail, Chris.

    Was the before-they-were-famous person an actor?
  7. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Thanks, Lin! I just want to be thorough.

    No, the "before they were famous person" was not an actor, though I do believe they appeared "as themselves".

    In some cases, he was known for the persona and mystique of "being himself" as much as he was for his actual talent.
  8. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    BTW, he DID have a fashion connection, but its not what pops into any given person's mind first. (well..maybe for us, but not the average person on the street).
  9. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

  10. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Part III: The Famolare family of shoes

    The Get There would be joined by several other models of the patented design.

    To prove that platform shoes could be sexy, Joe turned his sites to the "Hi There" and "Be Hi"

    The "Hi There" was a nod to - 70s style - of the wedge look that had been popular in the 30s and the 40s.

    Photo compliments of Margaret Wilds (denisebrain on ebay and http://www.materialgirlbags.com)
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/hitheredenisebrain.jpg" width=432 height=272>
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/hitheredenisebraintoe.jpg" width=360 height=245>
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/hitheredenisebrainheel.jpg" width=500 height=320>
    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/hitheredenisebrainsole.jpg" width=383 height=191>

  11. Hattysattic

    Hattysattic VFG Secretary

    :clapping: very enjoyable and extremely informative chris, thank you!... am racking my brain for the famous ex employee but to no avail!
  12. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Note, that although designed by Joe Famolare in the US, and being a US company, many of the shoes and/or components were made in Italy, where he had lived for a number of years in Florence. His family (he, his wife, and daughters) were bilocated in the US and Italy travelling back in forth. for about 20 years, I believe, in between heading up Bandolino, odd and working with suppliers later. One of his daughters was born outside the united states due to being due in a particular month when they were over there.
  13. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Okay...another hint about Mr. Ex employee

    Someone saw something in "before he were famous person" and they broke out of their janitorial/floor sweeping role with making a promotional film for Capezio shoes.
  14. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    The Be-Hi

    The Be-Hi was the closest shoe that was made in the line at the time to a pump. It still had the wave design, but they didn't all touch the ground. Preventing something getting wedged up under your heel, however.

    Photos courtesy of Jamie Hicks, http://www.repeatvintage.com

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/behi.JPG" width=311 height=397>

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/behi2.jpg" width=433 height=281>
  15. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Before they were famous person...so far
    1) Male
    2) Fashion connection, but not biggest claim to fame for average person
    3) Not an actor (as guessed by Lin), though could be spotted "as themselves"
    4) Known as much for persona as actual talent
    5) made an industrial film

    this is beginning to sound like 20 questions, doesn't it?
  16. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    I meant 20 questions in a fun way :)

    Okay, if i showed you a picture of "before they were famous person" you definitely would recognize his face.

    Here are photos of "Wooden Things", again compliments of Jamie!

    They do not have the patented soles. Famolare shoes was always about trying something different...

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/IMG_2281.JPG" width=318 height=399>

    <img src="http://image.inkfrog.com/pix/kitschnsink/IMG_2282.JPG" width=260 height=346>

    I have a few mote pics of these shoes that i will edit in later when my server cooperates!
  17. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    aaaaahh. Kind of a fashionable icon? hmmmm.

    I could guess but I'm going to ask... artist, director or both?

  18. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    aaaaahh. Kind of a fashionable icon? hmmmm.

    Fashionable in the producing something fashionable or lending one's talents to something fashionable more so than his personal style choices in setting fashion trends. So not a male Jackie Kennedy. In fact I don't know anyone who tried to copy his "look" as far as mainstream persons lest they be accused of dressing up like him for halloween lol. Not that his clothing was bad by any stretch...but he cultivated a very distinct look.

    Oh, answer to your question....both.
  19. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    I could give a giant hint...several actually...
  20. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    In fact there is a huge hint either on a VFG member's website (not mine!) My lips are sealed :)

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