Designer Appearance

Yeardley Smith at J. Gilbert Footwear

We talk shoes with Lisa Simpson—er, the actress who played Lisa Simpson—in advance of her J. Gilbert Footwear appearance.

By Laura Cassidy October 10, 2011

Meet Yeardley Smith at J Gilbert Footwear on Saturday, October 15. Just don’t call her Lisa.

The voice of Lisa Simpson will be at the downtown shoe store J. Gilbert on Saturday, October 15 between 1 and 5. No, not to do that one line from that one episode for you, but to talk about and show her footwear line, Marchez Vous YS. (Though I’ll admit it’d be hard for me not to request a revival of Putter from 1985’s The Legend of Billie Jean. Epic.)

Here, the French born actress tells us how she went from the world’s best little sister to platform heel designer.

WWW: I assume you were a shoe fanatic before you started your company. Who were your favorite shoe designers; what did you love about your favorite shoes? What one pair of shoes really inspired you to do this?
YS: Yes, I’m crazy about shoes! I have quite a varied collection. Favorite designers include Marc Jacobs, Chinese Laundry, Charles David, Ralph Lauren, Nine West, and Stuart Weitzman. My style is very girly so I want shoes that make me feel beautiful even if I’m just gong to the supermarket.

A favorite pair that I’ve worn almost to the point of extinction came from Marc Jacobs. They’re high heeled, red, Napa leather platform sandals with a simple wide strap across the toe and your basic heel/ankle strap. I was drawn to the bright color when I bought them and they made my ankles look sexy. But they aren’t the most comfortable. So when my friend and manager, Jay Froberg, asked me, out of the blue, “What are you passionate about?,” I said, “Shoes!” He said, “Why don’t you start your own shoe company?” “Umm….okay,” I said. And decided to take on the one thing that was missing from my closet: beautiful shoes that are also comfortable.

Where do you typically start when you’re designing? Is color the activator? Or do you think of a classic silhouette and start dreaming up ways to riff on it?
I love color! The black shoes in my collection are always the last ones I design. I also adore using unexpected materials. That’s how the idea for the burlap wrapped sole and platform came about for Valentine. It reminded me of that famous photo of Marilyn Monroe literally wearing a burlap sack, proving the point that she was beautiful no matter what she put on. I found the gorgeous periwinkle blue color for the grey/blue Valentine at an upholstery store in Los Angeles. Little did I know, that specific shade had been discontinued three years earlier! But I was obsessed. We scoured the country, found the last 70 yards in Miami, bought it all and shipped it to Italy for the limited edition of that style.

“Giselle” from the Marche Vous collection.

Where are your shoes made?
They’re made in Italy. I go over two to three times a year to check in with the factories, fabric suppliers and tanneries.

Let me talk to your 16-year-old self for a minute. If I told her you were going to voice a little girl named Lisa Simpson, and then launch a shoe line, which one of those things would be harder for her to believe?
I would actually say, voicing Lisa Simpson would have been harder for me to believe. Because even though I knew I wanted to be an actress by time I was about five years old, voice-over was never part of the plan when it came to my quest for world domination. I had no interest in it. I was, however, already obsessed with fashion. I remember the day I went to kindergarten with 50 barrettes in my bobbed hair and knew in my gut it was one of my most brilliant ideas to date.

What celebrity or historical figure, living or dead would you love to see walking in Marchez Vous and which particular pair would you pick for her?
Cleopatra. And I’d give her a pair of blue Claudine.

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