Our first point of contact with the ground is through our feet. You’ve got to walk before you run, jump before you leap and take care of your feet along the way. I can remember a time when I came home from working demolition all night. I kicked off my steel toes and my feet began to breathe again. They had been locked up for 10 hours, suffocating inside that cowhide sauna of syrup and stench. They had been reduced to mere anchors of support with a new callous attaching itself by the end every shift. I had considered starting my own ‘foot calendar’. I look back at those days and tell myself, ‘if I only knew then what I know now’. That Vince Guzzo a.k.a. Mr. Sunshine has a slipper capable of foot amnesia. Once you step into them, the only thing you will remember is how comfortable you were at that moment. Nothing else matters except the compliments and envy the slippers are sure to bring.
The slipper was co-created by Vince Guzzo from The Dragons’ Den and Stubbs & Wootton in Palm Springs. The brand is iconic in the world of luxury footwear. Since its launch in 1993, celebrities such as Kanye West and Lady Gaga have adorned their footwear. Vince premiered the slippers at this years Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 10, 2019, where he attended the event with fellow Dragon Michele Romanow, in addition to his friends and family. There are three styles, all with a black base featuring three different iterations of the ‘Mr. Sunshine’ branding, including the yellow 5 pedal flower he wears. Incidentally, the lavish slippers are available for men and women and will be priced accordingly, ranging from $579-$599.
Usually we interview filmmakers, actors, directors but when we were approached by Vince Guzzo’s team, we gladly accepted. After all, he owns the largest chain of Cinemas in Quebec, so he also knows a few things about the film world. I talked to him from Mexico, where he had been vacationing with family. He was extremely generous with his time.
“What was the inspiration behind this slipper creation and had you considered other clothing accessories before the slippers?”
“The brand was chosen on a personal basis. It’s one that I discovered 15 yrs. ago when I started vacationing in the Hamptons. It was a ‘street loafer’ that looks like a slipper. It’s looks like a black-tie loafer. I really like the brand and over the years I’ve gotten some custom pieces, for example the high school I graduated from, I had the initials of the school done, my kids go to that same school, etc. Over the years we’ve built a friendship and as we came closer to wanting to collaborate with someone like Ralph Loren, Thom Browne or Stubbs & Wootton, the one that was easiest to launch was the Stubbs & Wootton because I knew the entire process of how to make the custom loafer from a time in the past. We also have on the website, a red-tie, grey-tie, blue-tie and black-tie with the flower, Mr. Sunshine logo. We are in talks with Thom Browne and Ralph Lauren to take some of the clothes I wear and collaborate on a piece. For example, on the show I wear a yellow Thom Browne Cardigan. We’re trying to work out, how to adapt that cardigan to make it more custom to me and the Mr. Sunshine brand. The plan is to launch a series of accessory pieces. I’ve received some variances of some cuff links that we’re doing. The idea is to co-create within a reasonable price range, some fun male accessories. We did have one of the loafer styles with more of a unisex feel. We had a lot of women buying them, the shoe with the Mr. Sunshine flower on it was geared more toward women.”
“I took a look at the slippers/loafers and they look uber comfortable.”
“I was introduced to those shoes in the summer, two weeks before I went to the Hamptons in 2003ish. I was at the F1 Race, the Grand Prix in Montreal where Rigatori was running the Bennaton Renaulti. He was walking around in a pair looking very comfortable on a scorching hot day when everyone else looked like they were dying and uncomfortable with what they were wearing, except for him. I had a chat with him and he showed me the shoes. He had bought his in New York, I didn’t realize there was a store in the Hamptons, so I bought a pair and they were super comfortable. During the winter I wear them around the house and during the summer I wear them outside on a very regular basis.”
“When you were working with Stubbs & Wootton on the design, was it more about the aesthetic of the shoe or the comfort or both?”
“The comfort wasn’t an issue because they have three styles of it. We took the American one and worked on the aesthetic part. On a comfort level, their shoe was perfect. We came up with the outer look and the logo for Mr. Sunshine. That logo represents my flower on my lapel, which I wear all the time. It’s a five pedal flower.”
“Once somebody purchases a pair of your slippers, what do you want them to feel when they put them on for the first time?”
“I want them to feel exactly what I feel. I wear mine with jeans, staying comfy and modern but I can also wear them with a blazer and go out to a high-end restaurant without the issue of somebody looking and thinking ‘you look like a bum’. Those shoes make me feel like I’ve put some thought into what I’m going to wear. There’s an Italian phrase, ‘splecatulo’ which means, a simple way of dressing. It gives the impression that you’ve just thrown stuff on but in reality its all been well thought out; that’s what those shoes are. While comfort may have been the main element, you don’t want to lose the stylish look or the fashion of the shoe. Even though you’re dressing down it gives you this Coller Hamptons feeling like you’re in the country but you’re still dressing up.”
“Why did you decide to make these a limited edition?”
“I wanted to be able to every-so-often change the look, change the model and make some special editions. For us it was, ‘get em while you can’ until they’re no longer available. We’re going to do the same thing with some of the things I’ve said on the show and put them on t-shirts. We’ll also be doing a very limited edition of each size so that we don’t end up overstocking. You also have to remember that there’s somewhat of a healthy and logical minded business plan behind it. We don’t want to be caught with 500 pairs of overstocked shoes, we’d rather do a limited run, ‘get’em while you can’ and then we’re done.”
“Are you able to tell me what those limited edition numbers are?”
“We’ve made 10 of each model in sizes 7-12. So you’ve got 30 size 7’s, 30 size 8’s and so on. We’ve sold 22 or so pairs already and its funny because most of the ones we’re selling are the women’s. I was really surprised, I thought men would have bought more but women are pre shoppers. They know they’re going to need a summer shoe so they’re already buying it cause they see it available. Men are last minute shoppers.”
“Is there anybody out there you admire or respect enough that you’d consider sending a pair to?”
“I’ve actually done that already. I’ve sent a pair to my dad, I’ve sent a pair to my wife, I’ve sent a pair to Michelle Romanow, who’s on the show. I’ve sent about ten pairs out to people that could appreciate them. My father has the first Mr. Sunshine pair.When I gave them to him he gave me a funny look, but he’s wearing them now and we’re on holidays together in Mexico.”
“Are you able to talk about the material the slipper is composed of?”
“It’s a velour finish but the idea behind it is to give it the image of a black tie shoe. With the embroidering on it, you’re modernizing it. When I first saw this shoe, I thought it was something you could wear at a Great Gatsby Party. You can wear it there but you can also wear it on a daily basis. The construction of it is very unsophisticated in itself but its very high quality and made in Spain. When I tried to get it made in Italy and the UK, they were giving it more of a square-ish look with a higher lip. It was overly dressy but in Spain, they have a real expertise when it comes to their people. It looks more like a lounging shoe or loafer.”
“Since you’ve been on the Dragons’ Den, you’ve certainly heard many pitches for new products. What would your pitch sound like if you were addressing the Dragons?”
“Wow! You know, I was saying this to somebody, that every once in awhile you get someone that’s really good at doing something but is a really bad teacher. They understand it and know how to do it but have a really hard time teaching others how to do it and visa versa. I would tell you that when it comes to a pitch, my pitch would really be around the branding, the excitement of the shoe, about the sexiness of the shoe, the whole idea about how it feels and makes you feel. It’s about the sensation and would be a fashion minded pitch. I did this more as a statement and a labour of love for fashion rather than making money. For me, I don’t think I would’ve pitched it right because the minute they’d bring up the numbers, I’d tell them the numbers are irrelevant to me right now. It’s just about the branding and about creating a formula of something that’s more than visual.”
“You’ve been involved in cinema for decades, with your chain of theatres. Have you ever considered dipping your toe into producing or financing films?”
‘I was going to produce movies and we had certain discussions with certain people and then I started realizing that one of the people we talked to back then was Paramount Studios and then I realized what makes an amazing movie is an amazing script, an amazing producer and amazing everything. It’s all got the same vision; I could never understand why it took so long to produce a movie. When you consider the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m sure every woman that read that book had a vision of what Christian Grey looked like. The minute they announce the movie and the actor, I believe there were more disappointed women than there were satisfied women, why? Because everybody had a vision, so the problem is, when you have a script you need to find someone that has the same vision as you. When I looked into it I found there was a certain complexity to it. When I spoke to one of my partners they suggested we go to the American Film Market (AFM). When we went there, within an hour I had realized that the world already produces more than enough quality pictures and commercial pictures. Imagine an eight story building completely emptied out with every room becoming an office. Now try to imagine that every one of those offices has 5-20 movies to sell. I went around and realized that there’s probably too many movies being produced and most of them were not even getting playtime, they weren’t being shown in theatres. What we did was act as an in between, we started buying movies that were not being distributed by Canadian distributors. Last year we released four pictures. This year we want to release eight of them. Currently, all of them are the animated genres/family animated pictures. We’re going to start dipping toward more horror pictures as well as conventional dramas. At some point I can go back if we have a good producer, a good director, great cast and think, we’ll put money behind it and we’ll produce a movie.”
“A model says, ‘don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful’, what does a successful entrepreneur say?”
“Don’t hate me cause I’m successful.”
“What would you like your legacy to say about you?”
“If there’s anything that will probably end up being my legacy, it’s that it’s not about the money that I made or never made, it’s more about the fact that I did it my way; that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. A really successful person isn’t striving to make money. What he’s striving for, is the liberty to do whatever he wants to do. At the end of the day, the take away is, do I want to go into work today? I have the freedom to say yes or no. Do I want to stay on vacation for an extra week, I have the freedom to say yes or no. That’s what real successful entrepreneurs are striving for; for the right to do what they want to do.”
“Last question Vince; how do you maintain balance in your life?”
“I don’t, I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realize. Success isn’t obtained by comfort zones or by balance, it’s actually obtained by extremes. Great things only happen at the opposite ends of the spectrum, nothing happens in the middle. Sometimes I feel that some of the business magazines and books, especially life coaches that tell you to have a balance; unfortunately that’s not how conceptional ideas are born, that’s not how conceptional things are done. They’re not done by balance, they’re not done by finding the middle point, they’re done by finding the opposite ends. It’s not a secret that many successful people are successful about what they’re most obsessed about or focused on and the other parts of their life get neglected. You take a man like Steve Jobs and what he did with Apple, everybody knows his personal life was a total nightmare. It was like a wrecking ball, so unfortunately balance does not bring extreme success. It could bring success but I don’t think you’ll obtain greatness by trying to balance it. You have to be compulsive in what you want to achieve. I believe it was on the last episode that I said to somebody, they’re in love with their product. There’s a big difference between love and passion. Love is going to cost you money. People make sacrifices for love, nobody makes sacrifices for passion. There’s no compromises in passion, there is in love. You get married and you start to make compromises. Passion is uncompromising; you can be at it 24 hrs/day, there’s no problem. The point is, nobody is going to make your passion over something else, because you have a compromise. That’s where excessive things happen. I don’t think anyone that has gone down in history that has helped society progress has done so by balancing. I’m sure that many of them at a certain point in their lives, when they were asked ‘how did they achieve it’ many of them would say the truth, which is, that they sacrificed their entire life for my company, I’ve put everything behind this company and I’ve neglected my partner, I’ve neglected my kids, I’ve neglected everybody and then one day I woke up a billionaire but totally alone. Very few people will admit to that but the truth of the matter is, if you know your history, most people that have created exceptional advances in society are pretty lonely people that could only get their creativeness from their own way of doing things. I say this to my wife all the time; success is like an Egyptian pyramid. The higher you go the narrower it gets and its very lonely at the top of that period.
This was a very enjoyable and comfortable conversation about slippers and what it takes to stand out from the crowd and carve your own path. Vince Guzzo (Mr. Sunshine) is an outstanding Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is making people comfortable one step at a time.