These Shoes Are Made for Gawking

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

SHOE DESIGNER STUART WEITZMAN has celebrities at his feet—and he's at theirs. Elizabeth Taylor's Oct. 6 wedding plans included ordering up his pumps to go with the ivory gowns of her bridesmaids. Paula Abdul's current Diet Coke commercial shows her dancing in see-through Weitzman High Visibility heels. And with his shoes also gracing the feet of Kim Basinger, Anjelica Huston, Dixie Carter and Barbara Walters, it's no wonder that Women's Wear Daily dubbed him "king of the evening." Says designer Nicole Miller, who has used his footwear in her fashion shows: "He's really on target, very innovative."

Such accolades could go to a guy's head, but Weitzman, 50, grew up in shoe biz and knows how to keep things in perspective. After a comfortable childhood in suburban Long Island, Weitzman attended the Wharton School of Business, graduating in 1963. He dutifully went to work for his father, Seymour, maker of the well-known Mr. Seymour shoes. Starting at the bottom, Stuart worked with the company's pattern maker. "It wasn't my idea of a job," says Weitzman, who eventually became chief designer, "but he was a pretty strong dad, and I listened." Weitzman took the reins in 1965 after Seymour died, later renaming the firm Stuart Weitzman Shoes. The company, which has tripled its revenues in the last 10 years, now does $40 million in sales annually.

He produces everything from loafers to 3½-inch heels, but Weitzman is known for what he calls his special effects—$l,200-and-up handmade evening shoes bejeweled with rhinestone flags, moons and other motifs favored by stars.

When not traveling to his factories in Spain, Weitzman relaxes at his 11-room, Greenwich, Conn., house with Jane, his wife of 24 years. Even there, he is surrounded by shoes. Daughter Elizabeth, 22, is a congressional assistant in Washington, D.C., and Karen, 19, is a junior at Stanford. Together, the three women have taken over a room with their several hundred pairs of Stuart's shoes. "He gets a bigger kick out of seeing his shoes on women's feet than in stores," says Jane. "I don't think the novelty will ever wear oil for him."

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