“The factory that Manolo Blahnik uses is the same factory my grandfather worked with over 50 years ago,” says Richard Markowitz, whose grandparents Louis and Julia founded David’s footwear in Toronto in 1951 at the corner of College St. and Brunswick. In 1971, the family opened Canada’s largest independent luxury shoe store and a mecca for the Toronto’s well-heeled at the corner of Bay and Bloor. They now have two additional stores and offer e-commerce for far-flung shoe aficionados.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, we were one of the first retailers to bring Salvatore Ferragamo, Bruno Magli and Maud Frizon to Canada – the first original footwear designers,” adds Markowitz, who after stints in New York at demi-department store Jeffrey and heavy-hitter firm PR Consulting, now works on the business development and private label design side of David’s (and Capezio, which the family operates in Canada). This entails frequent trips to Italy and New York with his family (his mother also oversees in-house accessory design). Perks include having a custom pair of Manolo Blahnik d’orsay heels made for his new bride and often taking home a pair of sample-size loafers himself.
But still, both Markowitz men also make a point of regularly working the sales floor (in signature bespoke suits, no less) and listening to loyal customers. “The great thing is that we’ve gone from generation to generation with great continuity,” add his dad, the David, who takes a similar hand’s-on approach “My father [Louis] had a lot of information, I worked with him for many years. Now, I’m passing it on to Richard.”
Richard recently toured FLARE around their flagship, pin-pointing the best holiday soirée styles, from Giuseppe Zanotti metallic python pumps to Jimmy Choo feathered heels. “Something we pride ourselves on is that we work with a lot shoe brands. Many clothing brands try to get into the shoe market. Some do fantastic, such as Valentino, but we find that the best come from designers who truly understand how to make a shoe, choose the right materials, and create a last (shoe form),” he explains. “Half of it is how it looks, but a big part of it is the fit too.”
I recall to the Markowitz’s a story my mother likes to tell about allowing her rent cheque to bounce in the ’70s because she had to get a pair of over-the-knee suede Maud Frizon boots from David’s. They are hardly nonplussed. With prices that can make one choose shoes over shelter, their business is built on investment pieces that women (and men) rarely part with. To wit, my mom still has those boots somewhere, I’m told. And it’s no wonder, says Markowitz. “To make a high end shoes, there is about 142 steps from beginning to end. These really are like a couture dress.”
Click through the images to see FLARE’s top picks from David’s