For the holidays I wanted to share with you something of beauty and someone who inspires me and makes me smile. My friend, celebrity shoe designer, Jerome C. Rousseau is that man. I first met this maestro of shoe design two years ago through a mutual friend who knew that I was a bona fide shoe addict. (I’m actually in a 12 Step program for this you know.) At the time I was running a website for the support of the Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. Jerome’s amazing shoes had provided the gorgeous backdrop for Johnny Depp’s imaginarium adventure in the film. About meeting Jerome I remember her saying to me, “you’ll love him.” She was right.
It was love at first sight for Jerome the person and his breathtaking creations. Falling in love with Jerome Rousseau is not an uncommon malady. Just look at almost any interview anyone has ever done with him and it will be stated within the first paragraph. You just can’t help yourself.
As well as having his shoes showcased in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, Jerome also designed the exquisite silver heel worn by Olivia Wilde for the Disney film, Tron: The Legend and has recently designed a glorious shoe inspired by none other than Miss Piggy from the new Muppet movie.
Born in Quebec, Jerome Rousseau, found his passion to become a shoe designer after seeing the video of Dee-Lite’s song, “Groove Is In The Heart” when he was a teenager. Having never seen anything like this before he found he loved it all. The disco ball, the dancing, the clothes and those wonderful platform shoes. After completing high school he headed for London where he attended the prestigious Cordwainers College which boasts such esteemed alumnae as Jimmy Choo. After completing school he worked along side such luminaries as Isabella Fiore, John Richmond and John Rocha. He has worked in London and Los Angeles for over 10 years finessing his design skills. Don’t let that young face fool you, this is no greenhorn. From his soft, melodic French Canadian accent to his intensity while designing, this man is an expert, an artist. A maestro.
In 2008, Jerome launched his eponymous luxury footwear line, Jerome C. Rousseau. The line, at only three years old, is one of the most beautiful and sought after by the stars of Hollywood and shoe afficianados around the world and women like me who love beautiful, sexy shoes. It is being featured in all of the iconic fashion publications from Vogue Italia to Elle to Harpers Bazaar. All of this well deserved attention makes me very proud and joyful for Jerome, a man who inspires me with his zest for life and passion for his work.
So let’s snuggle in, grab a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of wine and have some fun catching up with this endearing, brilliant designer. Inspiration and beauty are things meant to be shared.
Theresa Shell: So how are you doing?
Jerome C. Rousseau: Very well, thank you. It’s been quite a year, I tell you. Especially these last few months since I started showing the last collection, starting in August and September in New York. Then it was Paris and Italy. Then back here (Los Angeles) to design the collection, then back in Italy. It’s just been really a not stressful, just very busy period of time. I feel like I’m just catching my breath. Now I’m reviewing prototypes. I’m really late choosing my materials. So things are going very, very well, but it’s a lot of work.
Theresa Shell: I know this will make you laugh, but the first thing I have to do is apologize to you for calling you on my birthday, sobbing like a mad woman because I had just received my first pair of Jerome C. Rousseau shoes. My favorite design.
Jerome Rousseau: Why would you apologize for that? I am pleased you are enthusiastic for the label. On the contrary. I appreciate it.
Theresa Shell: Those shoes were on my bucket list. I had even written in an article that it was my dream to own a pair of your shoes. So, when I opened them I just started to cry. I totally flipped I was so excited. Thank you for designing such beautiful shoes.
Jerome Rousseau: You’re welcome. But don’t worry about it. It’s my pleasure. So don’t worry too much about that.
Theresa Shell: You started the label in 2008. You and I met in 2009. The label has grown so much in the last two years. What has been the biggest change in your life due to its success?
Jerome Rousseau: I don’t think things have changed in my life very much since I started the label. The only difference is the workload. Literally, my life is the same. My friends are the same. I see the same people. The main difference is the amount of time I put in the work. That means basically taking a bit away from my usual social life as it was before starting the label and also the grueling travel schedule that comes with the label. Really that’s the biggest change for me, juggling with the workload and the travel schedule. But personally I don’t think that I have changed at all, except that I am a lot more proud than I was.
Theresa Shell: You have every reason to be. I am very proud of you. I mean it has been such a joy for me to watch this over the past two years. To sit back and know the man, and just love the man to pieces, then see this kind of success for him. My column is about attaining dreams, my life journey in doing that and the people who touch my life, support and inspire me. For me to sit back and watch this happening to someone I care about is such a joy.
Jerome Rousseau: I am very happy that you appreciate it. Thank you so much for the compliment.
Theresa Shell: You’re welcome. When you decided to pursue your dream and start your own line, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Jerome Rousseau: You know, it’s not just one big challenge when you start a label like this. It’s hard to say what the biggest challenge is. You know, I just said the biggest change was the workload and the very busy travel schedule, but that’s not a challenge. When you really love what you do its not difficult to put in the time, etc. I think the biggest challenge, it’s probably the same any small business owner will tell you, it’s managing cash flow and the financial side of things. I started the label with the 2008 collection and when we are looking at three and one-half years ago, it’s been a very difficult time in the economy and to grow a company in that difficult climate is not something easy. But that being said, we have done well and the label is growing and we’ve just hired a new employee. It’s a very exciting time, but perhaps the biggest difficulty is to finance the growth in a difficult economy.
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Celebrities wearing Jerome C. Rousseau
(L to R) Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Hayley Williams
Theresa Shell: As you know, I follow your career very closely and I am seeing celebrities wearing your shoes all over the red carpet and other events as well as in their personal lives. Is there any particular celebrity that you would like to see wearing your shoes?
Jerome Rousseau: Yes there is one. I love this question. I hope she is reading this sometime. There is someone I have loved all my life. Someone who came out in the 80’s. Cyndi Lauper. I am a massive fan of hers and I really like what she’s become. In fact she has a lot of integrity and is very supportive of the LGBT Community which is something very close to me. So she is someone I admire on many levels and I would love to see Cyndi Lauper wearing my shoes. Yes.
Theresa Shell: I just love her. She’s a very good friend of one of my friends and I admire her so much. She’s wonderful.
Jerome Rousseau: Yes she is.
Theresa Shell: I love the Muppets! I have told my kids that I want to marry Animal. He’s my kind of man. (both of us laugh.) Now, Miss Piggy inspired you to design the breathtaking, “Diva Glitter” pink platform pump. What was so inspirational about Piggy?
Jerome Rousseau: There are a lot of things that are an inspiration about Miss Piggy. She is an icon. She lives this incredibly fun, glamorous diva life. And that’s inspiring. But, what inspired me the most about Miss Piggy is really a combination of her looks and her personality. She’s curvaceous and sexy. I wanted the shoe to represent that. I wanted the shoe to have a lot of curvy lines, the platform. Something that’s, you know, sexy. Something that makes a statement. Although, Miss Piggy doesn’t wear a lot of pink and she’s not pink, but for some reason when I talked about the Miss Piggy shoe to all my friends and designers I respect , everyone was talking about pink with Miss Piggy so I thought I may as well do a shoe that’s pink. And you know how much I love glitter. I’ve been using it for a couple of seasons now. So that’s sort of how the pink glitter, curvy shoe came about basically.
Theresa Shell: I love the shoe. It’s so beautiful and really sexy. You designed the amazing metallic heel that Olivia Wilde wears in Disney’s Tron: The Legend, and the exquisite shoes in the Johnny Depp imaginarium sequence in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. Janie Bryant, the costume designer for Mad Men has named you her favorite up and coming shoe designer in her much respected blog. Do you have any more film or television projects coming up?
Jerome Rousseau: It’s a great question. I am very lucky that I have had film connotations and collaborations with the label with Terry Gilliam’s Parnassus, then Tron, then The Muppets. There is one more project that is in the works. It’s not confirmed and not something I can talk about just yet, but yes, there is something in the hat for sometime in 2012.
Theresa Shell: Wearing a beautiful shoe can make me feel so feminine and even totally change my mood. One of the things that has most impressed me about you as a professional, beyond your intelligence and mastery of your art, is your innate sense of what makes a woman feel beautiful and sexy. Is this a major factor in your mind when you design a shoe?
Jerome Rousseau: It absolutely is. I think it is the most important thing for a shoe designer to consider when you are designing a collection. I am definitely someone who loves a “statement” shoe. That being said, when I design I always pay attention to where the shoe is cut and to what the leg looks like when it is on. How many toes are showing through the cut. It is all about the cut and the silhouette it creates basically. And as you very well know, it makes a woman feel confident and beautiful when a shoe is elegant and subtle at the same time. It is definitely an area that I put a lot of attention to. In fact if you take some of the more flamboyant shoes I have done, for example the Tron shoe, that shoe on the foot is terribly beautiful and flattering. It’s easy to do something big and loud, but it’s a lot harder to do something big and loud and subtle at the same time that actually enounces the leg and the silhouette on a beautiful woman.
Theresa Shell: I think one of the things that most strikes me about your designs is that they are definitely edgy, but they have this classic elegance that is so feminine. Ladylike. In my mind I equate ladylike with femininity. They never look sharp or boyish. I think when a woman feels feminine, she feels beautiful. I was so excited when you chose Siobhan Fahey, formerly of Bananarama and now of Shakespear’s Sister, as the face of the Jerome C. Rousseau line. At age 52 this woman is just amazing and someone that almost all women can relate to. What made you choose her?
Jerome Rousseau: It was such an honor to have Siobhan be the face of our campaign. What made me choose her? I fell in love with Siobhan when I was six years old. Siobhan is someone I have admired my entire life from “Bananarama” when I was a child and a teenager to “Shakespear’s Sister” when I was a slightly older teenager up to today. Her work, her writing, her voice, her melodies. It really touches me. She is also a woman with great integrity and I really love that about her. In fact she’s incredibly beautiful so why would I not choose her to be the face of the account then would be the question. I love the fact that she is not a 17 year old model. Siobhan is Siobhan Fahey and you cannot take this out of her. She is somewhat uncompromising in what she projects and that’s something beautiful and sexy. I was really honored that she agreed to be the face of the campaign.
Theresa Shell: The photos are fabulous.
Jerome Rousseau: They are. Aren’t they? Doesn’t she look amazing? Who can get away with having beautiful blue hair at 52 years old? It’s absolutely no problem and she wears it and she owns it. It’s really beautiful and inspiring. It makes me feel that I will hopefully be able to grow a little bit older and still stay cool and true to myself.
Theresa Shell: What do you think will be the fashion trend in shoes for Spring 2012?
Jerome Rousseau: I don’t care a great deal for trends. I can tell you what the key directions are for my collection, which I think are trends, but you know are my own personal trends in that respect. But they are what I believe in for the season. For spring 12 I felt really strong for a return to minimalism. I liked very much to make everything very simple and feminine silhouettes that also have character. In terms of colors and materials it was really important to put the emphasis on texture, material and color. Bringing in something exotic like a bright orange ostrich skin which is really divine and beautiful. And that to me is an important statement for Spring. I am also using quite unexpected materials like a woven straw. One of them is black. One is white. Then I mix them both together on the same shoe so creating a strong black and white statement. Sort of minimalist and modern at the same time. This is the key trend for me for Spring 12.
Theresa Shell: It sounds wonderful.
Jerome Rousseau: It’s beautiful.
Theresa Shell: Are you doing some sandals? I love sandals.
Jerome Rousseau: Loads of sandals. I’ll send you some photos.
Theresa Shell: Oh, YAY! I can’t wait! I love it! We are always told that the one clothing necessity a woman MUST have in her wardrobe is “The little black dress.” What is the one shoe every woman MUST have?
Jerome Rousseau: I love this question because people expect you to say, oh it’s a black pump or it’s a black ankle boot. People always want to answer the question, what is the MUST have pair of shoes with, ‘It would be the one you wear every day.’ I completely disagree with that. What every woman must have is a fantastic “statement” shoe that makes her feel wonderful and it’s a shoe that directional and eccentric and strong and colorful and startling. All these things at once. Do you know what I mean?
Theresa Shell: Absolutely.
Jerome Rousseau: It’s basically a shoe that is divinely beautiful. That is a shoe for a special occasion that will make you look like a million dollars. That’s what every woman should have, I think.
Theresa Shell: I totally agree with you. I am one who will wear the simplest dress and my shoe makes my statement. It makes the outfit.
Jerome Rousseau: Exactly. You are asking a shoe designer so I will agree with you. (both laugh.)
Theresa Shell: Do you plan on expanding the line to other items such as handbags or men’s shoes?
Jerome Rousseau: Yes. Yes. Yes. I really would love to. I would love to do a label of men’s shoes. It’s not as easy as it seems. Considering going into a new category like this you have to consider new factories, new suppliers and new schedules for trade shows, buyers and press. It’s really like starting a new company. And I’m still trying to get my label more exposure and grow with that first. All of my eggs are in the women’s footwear market this year. Eventually, men’s footwear is what I would like to do next. To be honest I’m interested in other categories from handbags to…hopefully we will grow enough to add other categories as well. Be it sunglasses, scarves and whatever.
Theresa Shell: I would love to see you do that.
Jerome Rousseau: Thank you.
Theresa Shell: I strongly believe that with hard work we all can attain our dreams regardless of our age or circumstances. What advice would you give to others about making their dreams a reality?
Jerome Rousseau: I am definitely an optimist. I definitely see things in a very positive light at all times. But at the same time, I am quite realistic in that respect. I think hard work is one thing and without it you aren’t going to go anywhere, but I think it’s important to be realistic with a thing like this and realize that hard work is going to be the only thing sometimes that will make it happen, but also you need other things. You need passion for what it is. And when you have a lot of passion you develop a talent for it. Do you know what I mean?
Theresa Shell: Definitely.
Jerome Rousseau: I think all these things are part of the equation. I think you also need a lot of luck at times. The people around you to support you. I think hard work is part of the equation to be successful, but I think to me maybe what is more important is the passion. I know that you can work as hard as you want but if you don’t enjoy it, in a year’s time you’re not going to want to keep doing it. So what’s more important initially is the passion for what someone is doing and I think that is what allows you success.
This is such a busy time for Jerome right now and he stopped everything to spend this time with us. I am so appreciative of that my friend. He is one of my favorite people in the world and I am so grateful for the inspiration I draw from his example. I wish him a most Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year.
I am posting Jerome’s wonderful video profile HERE for all of you to enjoy. It gives you some great insight into the man and his work through his own voice. You can also visit his website at JEROME C. ROUSSEAU where you can view his collections in their entirety and find where you can find a list of retailers where you can find or order his wonderful creations.
Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to all of you!