Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Designer Dedicated to Fashionable Comfort Shoes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Designer Dedicated to Fashionable Comfort Shoes

Article excerpt

Crowne Comforteur

Designer * Joanne Smith

Hometown * Dutzow

Age * 64

Family* Husband Daniel; children Adam of Boston, Concetta of Brooklyn, Margaux Vivian of St. Louis; and granddaughter Amiya, 10

What she makes * Vintage-influence comfort footwear that's leather inside and out. She currently has a line of about 18 styles.

How to buy * She has a store at Taubman Prestige Outlets in Chesterfield, and you'll find them at most major shoe outlets or shoes.com. Factory pricing ranges from $79 to $89 at the store in Chesterfield; regular-priced shoes range from $120 to $150. Crowncomforteur.com

Forty years in the making * She earned a degree in marketing and financial planning from Husson University in Maine, but she intended to work on the creative side using her love of art. "I always aspired to be an artist, so I went to school thinking I'd later work as a commercial artist. Now, it would be a graphic artist, but at the time there were no computers so we did it all by hand," she said. Then in 1973, she answered an ad to be a sketch artist at International Shoe Co. that was then located on Washington Avenue. She was thrilled to get a job with "artist" in her title, but she ended up sketching shoe patterns. It wasn't as exciting as she'd hoped, but "I really fell in love with the work. Once you're in the shoe business you don't want to leave."

From nightmare to dream job * "I was the only female in a department of 40 men at a time when they were used to having no women around. Some men wouldn't even talk to me ... and the ones that did talk to me said things I didn't want to hear, but I hung in and they hung in." She said that her acumen for the work earned her the respect of a European executive at the company who became her mentor. "He said he liked my work and wanted to teach me everything he knew," she said. She worked there for five years and then moved to the East Coast to work strictly as a designer. Even when her husband relocated to Missouri for work, she continued work in New York and kept an apartment in Queens (that was near her daughter at the time) and commute back and forth throughout the week. …

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