Head up & heels high: Inside Jessica Rich’s shoe empire

Harper's Bazaar met the iconic shoe designer Jessica Rich who is now celebrating 5 years at the top

Bodysuit: @rockystarofficial. Gloves: @wolfandbadger. Shoes: @jessicaRichCollection. Necklace: @vitaly Earrings: @ladalegina

Driven by her love for design and her mission to empower others, Jessica Rich founded the now renowned luxury shoe brand: Jessica Rich. Her goal was to create a brand that exudes confidence, independence and originality and famous clients include Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Megan Fox, Cardi B and Toni Braxton.

Jessica Rich is Hollywood’s go-to girl for all things footwear and her company has just celebrated their 5 Year Anniversary. Jessica is always challenging herself to create new designs and expand her business and her shoes are displayed at iconic retail locations such as Nordstroms and Bloomingdales. In December 2020, Jessica Rich celebrated the opening of its newest brick-and-mortar location in the Los Angeles Beverly Center.

Her mission is to inspire and encourage others, especially Black females living in America, to reach for their dreams and never give up.

Harper’s Bazaar: What inspired you to pursue fashion?

JESSICA RICH: Originally, I was working in PR. But in 2015, I decided to switch career path and follow my dream of designing something tangible. I had amassed a large social media following thanks to my short stint on VH1’s Real Chance of Love, a dating reality TV show. I wanted to use my “fifteen minutes of fame” from the show to amplify the buzz I generated, so I spent the next few years networking. I’ve always had a love for fashion and natural entrepreneurial spirit. I just needed to take the risk and commit to the future I wanted.

Jessica’s Dad – Suit: QloakLA Atelier Bespoke @qloaklaatelier. Brooch: Chanel – @chanelofficial. Shoes: zara- @zara. Jessica’s Mom – Dress & Jacket: @devon_beverlyhills. Shoes: @jessicaRichCollection. Jewelry: @camillaseretti by @rollsroycesahar. Jessica Rich – Dress: @valdrinsahitiofficial. Shoes: @jessicarichcollection. Earrings: @bonylevy. Ring: @camillaseretti by @rollsroycesahar 

Harper’s Bazaar: You are pioneering the future of footwear. What does this responsibility mean to you?

JESSICA RICH: Thank you for the compliment. I take this responsibility very seriously and personally. I know I have big shoes to fill. I want to continue to inspire other African-American and female designers to take the leap, start their own businesses, and commit to the journey of growth and long-term success. I want to remind those eager entrepreneurs that maintaining the momentum is just as hard as launching the brand.

It’s okay and normal to feel the external pressure to have your next designs ready one after another, the demand can and will feel like a lot at times – but it’s important to know you’re capable of exceeding these expectations.

It’s important for me to continue to be inspired and to inspire others. However, creative blocks are real things and happen to everyone from time to time. When I find myself in a creative rut, I intentionally take a step back and reevaluate my vision and goals. Ideas and inspiration will come at the right time if you allow the space for it. We are all capable of greatness; it just takes time and dedication.

Harper’s Bazaar: As a designer, what inspires you to continuously innovate and create new trends?

JESSICA RICH: Demand, demand, demand. When I first started my business, I released one shoe per month and it left my customers wanting and waiting for more. But it’s a whole different ball game now. Since the demand is much higher, I create and design new shoes every three months, a new season for the new year, etc. I have put out more shoes this year than I have in my entire five years of designing. I am extremely grateful for my supporters and loyal customers, I wouldn’t have got this far without them.

Blazer Set: @e.b.femme. Earrings: @sybg.co. Rings: @ladalegina. Shoes: @jessicaRichCollection

Harper’s Bazaar: Did you always want to work in the footwear business? What led you down this path?

JESSICA RICH: During my time spent networking, I amassed an impressive list of contacts filled with celebrities, stylists, and brand influencers. That’s when I realized that I had a real opportunity to use my love for fashion and connections to build a successful business.

I began my startup by launching an online store centered around costume jewelry. In 2017, I had $1,500 to create a prototype of a pair of transparent heels. I took 50 photos, sent them out to my list of influencer contacts, the influencers reposted it, and my start in the footwear space began.

Just months later, I had accumulated enough revenue to quit my day job and focus fully on expanding my brand. Even now, it feels so surreal. I am so grateful I have been able to turn my passion into my career.

Harper’s Bazaar: What shoe are you most proud of creating? Is there a special story or symbolism behind one of them?

JESSICA RICH: I am most proud of creating my signature design, the Fancy Stiletto, because it was an innovative design the footwear industry hadn’t seen before.

I was the first person to create the Cinderella PVC pump and it felt like the whole world followed in my footsteps after that. My inspiration for this design was that I wanted every woman to feel like a modern Cinderella: sexy, sophisticated, and classy. I was able to have this shoe posted onto so many celebrity social media timelines. This shoe was the catalyst for my career in so many ways.

Blazer Set: @e.b.femme. Earrings: @sybg.co. Rings: @ladalegina. Shoes: @jessicaRichCollection

Harper’s Bazaar: You’ve created a highly coveted celebrity shoe brand, which must feel like incredible recognition for all of your hard work. When did you first realize the huge reach that Jessica Rich has with celebrity A-listers, and what does it mean to you to see so many big names loving the brand?

JESSICA RICH: I have worked really hard to acquire a rolodex of contacts and supporters, however, when I saw Jennifer Lopez wearing my shoes to the MTV awards, paired with a Versace jumpsuit was when I knew I was on to something big.

Harper’s Bazaar: As a highly successful female black entrepreneur, you’ve surely had to overcome many obstacles in your career to get to where you are now. What advice do you have for the next generation of minority women in fashion?

JESSICA RICH: I want to tell them: it will be extremely difficult. Yes, the world now accepts Black designers more than before – thanks to all activism and support gained throughout the years. But, we will always have to work twice as hard to prove our talents and to actually truly receive respect and recognition. There have been many times I wanted to give up but I couldn’t and wouldn’t let myself stop. Those who push through and maintain consistency are the ones that succeed.

I wanted to tell any and all minority designers to never feel as though you’re not good enough. I have felt those feelings myself at times, I doubted whether or not I would ever secure a space in retail stores. But by never giving up and staying consistent, retail stores started to recognize my work and began to allow me a space within their stores because they were seeing my designs all over Instagram. My biggest piece of advice: Your brand will only grow as much as you water it.

Diamond set: @alea_thebrand. Lace: @agentprovocateur @qloakla. Shoes: @jessicaRichCollection. Earrings: @bonylevy


Talent & Muse: Jessica Rich of Jessica Rich Collection @jessicarich @jessicarichcollection
Photographer: Chris Martin @bychristmartin
Wardrobe Stylist: Eric Burns @eburnsprepjerks
Hair Stylist: Vicky B @whoisvickyb
Makeup Artists: Gabby and Yelena Poghosyan @yelena_mua
Videography: @realproductions.inc @bradantoigo
Public Relations & Production: Emily Blair Marcus @emilyblairmarcus of Emily Blair Media @emilyblairmedia
Location: @thenightfallgroup

Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam