Shoe designer Vanessa Noel is ramping up her support for New York City on several levels.
During an interview Thursday afternoon, she ran through her plans as her parrot “Mr. Peeps” squawked in the background.
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The designer will welcome 20 guests to her Upper East Side townhouse Monday night for a dinner for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. But as is often the case in politics, the gathering won’t just be a social occasion. Guests need to chip in between $2,500 and $5,000 to attend with their donations earmarked for Adams’ defense fund. Federal authorities are looking into whether the mayor’s 2021 election campaign accepted illegal donations, including from the Turkish government.
“I love New York City. I’ve been a designer, retailer and wholesaler and a woman-owned business for almost four decades here. I support this city. I did not leave during COVID[-19],” Noel said. “I really believe the mayor understands how important fashion is to New York City. He has great style and he respects quality and design. We are the fashion capital of the world and I feel that fashion should stand behind our mayor here.”
The designer produces in Italy but she said she sources as much as she can from her home state. Among the expected guests are Carolina Herrera, Prince Dimitri, Susan Gutfreund and Michael Dean — all of whom serve on Noel’s board of directors. Dean was instrumental in getting the mayor to commit to the dinner. Adams’ brother Bernie will also attend, with his wife, Sharon.
Asked about how critics may question her decision to support Adams’ legal fund when the investigation is still ongoing, Noel pointed to how New York Fashion Week benefits the city economically and how the industry employs approximately 6 percent of the city’s workforce. “That’s taxable income.” she said. “I firmly believe that we are innocent until proven guilty. No one needs to [form] a final judgment until legally [the investigation] is done.”
Noel said feels the mayor has made the streets of the Upper East Side safer, and defended his policies on immigration. With a 1,500-square-foot East 64th Street store, public safety is an essential issue for Noel.
The mayor has also donated a pair of shoes to Noel’s “Icon Collection,” a traveling exhibition that highlights the achievements and footwear preferences of select high-profile figures. Noel is scouting locations on the Upper East Side and in Midtown for the Noel Shoe Museum, which she said will be the first shoe museum in the U.S. In the meantime, the exhibition will be staged for eight weeks this summer at the designer’s Nantucket outpost on 46 Centre Street. Built in 1760 for whaling captain George Pollard whose doomed Essex was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” that space includes a gallery and is expected to reopen in July pending electrical repairs. Noel spent little time on the island last summer, following a death In her family and the store was closed last summer, a spokeswoman for Noel said.
John Hedden, the chief environmental officer for the Nantucket Health & Human Services department, said the building remains condemned and that the board of health has not yet been asked to re-inspect the premises.
Noel has been name-checked in author Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket-themed beach read books, which routinely reference island businesses. “She has started something that is quite creative and wonderful. She lives there. I think people need to support where they live,” Noel said.
The show’s first installment was staged last year in the foyer of her townhouse and classes of students were welcomed last fall. Outreach is underway to include shoes and sneakers from international resources, designers and historians, Noel said. “Part of the mission for the museum is to learn about the culture of man through the evolution of the shoe,” she said.
Explaining that her namesake company was built over decades, Noel said she aims to create an “incredible, economically beneficial, cultural institution for this city. But we want to do it correctly.”
She has also created an invitation-only group of “Stilettos Ambassadors” to champion the Noel Shoe Museum. Nearly 1,000 people have signed up with membership ranging between $1,000 and $20,000. They can network and participate in cultural events such as private tours with docents that highlight the shoes featured in works of art at major destinations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A cruise from Palermo to Greece that will make stops amid the ancient ruins will feature insights from a historian about the footwear and designs that were worn. “We’re creative and we’re fun,” Noel said.
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