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Vince Camuto, 78, Legendary Greenwich Footwear Designer, Dies

Photo Credit: VinceCamuto.com

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Women's footwear designer Vince Camuto, who co-founded shoe company Nine West Group and launched his own globally successful brand, died at his home in Greenwich on Wednesday at the age of 78.

Camuto had been battling cancer. The designer is best known for co-founding Nine West Group in 1978. He served as creative director there for two decades and was named CEO in 1993. Nine West was sold in 1999 to Jones Apparel Group.

Camuto then founded the Camuto Group, which owns his namesake footwear line, in 2001. He was CEO and chief creative officer of the company, which also licensed products for Tory Burch, BCBG and others.

The privately held company is based in Greenwich at 411 W. Putnam Ave. The designer, whose products are sold at the company's own stores and other retailers, expanded his fashion empire to include clothing, accessories and fragrances.

Marcia O'Kane, executive director of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, said the company has been a longtime member and supporter of the chamber.

"He is a local success story and everyone is mourning the loss of a Greenwich resident," she said. "The company is a longtime supporter and we are proud to have the Camuto Group as a member."

He launched four footwear brands for Dillard’s Department Stores, including Antonio Melani, Gianni Bini, Nurture, and Michelle D. Later that year, he acquired the footwear licenses for BCBG, Max Azria and BCBGirls. In 2005, he launched his namesake footwear line, Vince Camuto. Closely thereafter in 2006, he partnered with Burch to launch her footwear collection and collaborated with her to create the Reva ballet flat. In 2009, the company added Lucky Brand Jeans footwear and kensiegirl footwear to its portfolio and later launched a handbag collection.

In 2005, Camuto purchased the master license for Jessica Simpson. Two years later, he opened the first Jessica Simpson Collection shop-in-shop at Macy’s Herald Square.

As of February 2014, the brand was worth $1 billion.

Camuto was married to Louise Camuto, who was Miss Sweden 1989 and Miss Universe first runner-up, and had five children.

Camuto supported charities including Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude's Hospital, Leukemia Society of America and The Domestic Abuse Awareness Foundation. In addition, he served on the board of Wish-And-A-Smile, an organization dedicated to supporting numerous children's charities.

“I really listened and learned, especially from the women. They told you what they liked, what they didn’t like,” Camuto told Women's Wear Daily . “We don’t think that we can fool her. We give her the best value."

Matthew Murphy, director of the Fred D. Knapp & Son Funeral Home, is handling the arrangements.

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