In the mid-1970s, Jerome Fisher would look at the upscale runway shows and marvel at the shoes the models were wearing. Unfortunately, the closest most women would get to those shoes was seeing them in the pages of Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. Fisher found he could modify the designs and manufacture them quickly in Brazil. Fisher’s office was in the iconic sloped, glass building in Manhattan, 9 West 57th Street, so he modified that, too, and named the new brand Nine West.
Fisher’s approach was innovative, and Nine West soon became the dominant brand in department stores through in-store marketing displays. Instead of spending heavily on traditional advertising, beginning in 1983 the Nine West team focused on opening concept shops to present the full brand vision—updated styles and good quality at moderate prices.
Before long, the company was selling one of every five pairs of women’s shoes in America. By the time Fisher merged the company with Jones Apparel in 1999, the company was valued at more than $1 billion. The son of a successful shoe manufacturer, Fisher has said that he was “cloned into” the business. He worked in his father’s factories as a teen, sold shoes while at Wharton, and even wrote a thesis on the demise of the New England shoe manufacturer.
Even after Fisher took Nine West public in 1993, he kept tight control of the company’s business dealings, including operations in Brazil, where Nine West at one time employed more than 60,000 workers. Fisher has called the creation of jobs in Brazil one of the most rewarding aspects of his career. Fisher has been a Penn Trustee and a Wharton Overseer.
In 1995, he endowed what has become the Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, an interdisciplinary program between Wharton and Penn Engineering that was the first of its kind. In addition, he and his wife Anne have also been honored with the naming of Fisher-Hassenfeld College House, part of the historic quadrangle renewal project, and the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, both in recognition of their gifts.