January 29, 2015 5:49 AM EST

Vince Camuto, who died Jan. 21 at 78, built a fashion empire that extended well beyond the fame of his own name.

In 1978, the native New Yorker co-founded Nine West, a brand that promised style at a reasonable price. His shoes meant different things to different women: a first pair of heels, a splashy set of going-out sandals, a sturdy shoe for the office, a gateway drug to Carrie Bradshaw levels of shoe addiction.

Nine West grew fast, going public in 1993 and selling for $900 million in 1999. When Camuto’s two-year noncompete deal ended, he and his wife Louise launched the Camuto Group, selling shoes under their own names as well as licensing designs for the likes of BCBG Max Azria, Banana Republic, Jessica Simpson and Tory Burch, for whom his team designed the wildly popular Reva ballet flat.

The devil may wear Prada, but most of us are happy wearing Camuto.


This appears in the February 09, 2015 issue of TIME.

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