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Inside Shoe Guru Jerome C. Rousseau's Hollywood Studio

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Photos by Elizabeth Daniels

Celebrated shoe designer, Jerome C. Rousseau, first fell in love during his MTV days when he ran across the Deee-Lite music video for "Groove is in the Heart" at the impressionable age of 12. The mix of '60s psychedelia and '70s disco with those platforms all in one video left the French-Canadian with a passion that led him to Montreal to study fashion design and eventually to East London where he would focus on Footwear and Accessories Design at the respected Cordwainers College. After working in the UK for several years, Rousseau moved to Los Angeles and spent time designing for another company before finally launching his namesake label in Fall 2008.

Rousseau, who admits to losing sleep over color palettes, designs four collections a year in his Los Angeles studio but is constantly traveling to Italy where the shoes are produced. While there, the designer works on the technical side of the design process and with his fit model to make sure the style is perfect, "Just five millimeters on the shoe is very important," he explains.

In five years, Rousseau has seen his work on huge Hollywood names such as Charlize Theron, January Jones and Kristen Stewart, but the big moment of each season is opening the box of new product for the first time. "It can be really hard as a creative person to put six months of work towards getting your shoes made and you have this vision for it," the designer explains of the moment's mixed emotions. "Sometimes, something you had your heart set on, just isn't quite right and sometimes it is so much better than you thought it might be."

We visited the designer at his Hollywood studio where it all goes down. Everything from sketching, sales, stylist pulls and celebrity fittings happen at his spot right across from the infamous Paramount Studios. While we were there, we caught the designer mid-sketch, previewed his Spring Collection and learned why he finds shoes so magical.

Where do you find inspiration for each collection?
"It changes a lot. Some designers do a lot of research towards their inspiration, I'm a lot more spontaneous. I guess I research every day of the year and you fall in love with things. I'm very passionate about everything, so if I discover a new artist I want to know everything about this artist. Inspiration can come from anything, literally: nature, travel, film, music, going out dancing, someone on the street, a book that you've received..."

How does the design process work?
"It starts with a great idea and I translate that into a design that is technically feasible. I want to make sure that the design represents the theme that I want to portray that season and that it sums up the DNA of my label. Sometimes I have great designs but they don't belong to my label.

My footwear is manufactured in Italy so that means a lot of travel there. While in Italy, I look at the design and I build a new last. I need to make a last in every size that reflects the construction I am trying to build. Once I have the new last, I build the heels so I can see the construction and balance it properly, then with those components I can go into the rest: insole, outsole, then I cut my pattern. Once I have my pattern, I work with various suppliers to find the materials then I develop the colors I want in those materials. Finally, I put all of the pieces of the puzzle together to get my first prototype."

Why do you think women love shoes so much?
"When you have a pair of good, quality shoes that you love, it makes you feel special when you put them on. You may wear a dress but the shoe really wears you, it holds you. [Women] think they love shoes, but they actually love how shoes make them feel. It's quite magical really."

Speaking of magical, you've got a really great spot across from Paramount Studios. Why did you choose this location for your studio?
"I looked at a lot of locations and wanted a space that we could grow into and that felt welcoming with a lot of light. One of the main reasons for getting this office was to have a space for stylists to come in and pull. I wanted our stylists and celebrities to have a space that was easy to access. Here, it is quick in-and-out. I live in Beachwood Canyon and it was important for me to not drive too far so I wanted to stay in Hollywood as well. I thought the location was convenient for everyone and the space was really suited."

What spots in the area can we coin as Jerome C. Rousseau favorites?
"There's a place on Melrose called Osteria La Buca, it's amazing Italian place for lunch or dinner with great wines. It's been one of my favorite restaurants since I first moved to LA. Another place I love is Cliff's Edge in Silverlake, French-California kind of cuisine. They have this gorgeous garden with a massive tree in the middle, it's quite exceptional. For Mexican food I love El Conquistador, they have the strongest margaritas and the atmosphere is so festive and they have some artwork in there that I love. For going out there's a bar I really love, Pour Vous. It is one of the most beautifully decorated spots I've seen in our city. Then when you're done you go to Astro Burger across the street and have the Garden Burger Deluxe, it's the best thing ever."
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