A few weeks back, while previewing the upcoming Nina shoes holiday collection, I was slightly taken aback when the PR team alluded to Nina herself. I had to interrupt. “Wait, Nina is an actual person?” I asked. Not only is Nina a real, live person, but she’s currently in charge of running the shoe empire her father, Stanley Silverstein, and uncle founded and named after her way back in 1953.
Now I don’t know if there is a woman out there who hasn’t worn at least one pair of Nina shoes. Between prom, homecoming, weddings and just about everything other special occasion, Nina has the market on lock when it comes to gorgeous, affordable shoes that don’t kill your feet. Heck, I just wore a pair last month to a birthday party.
Because Nina is so cult, I decided to make it my mission to meet Nina in the flesh. Turns out, I got something even better. A sit down interview with Nina Miner herself and a tour of the Nina showroom and archives. Lucky for you, I’m sharing the experience. Enjoy!
Nina rocking the red lip like no other.
SHEfinds: What does it feel like being the creative leader in the company that bears your namesake?
Nina Miner: It’s a big deal because I never thought in my lifetime that I would be here. I want to say it’s a dream come true. To come and work in a place that your father started and named after you–who can say that?
SF: What was it like growing up knowing you had this highly successful shoe line named after you?
NM: I remember being nine years old and I had shoes with my name stamped in them. Being a little kid, I’d be embarrassed. Nobody else’s father was making shoes. The thing is, it was never about me. I never looked at it like that. It was always about my dad.
A rare peek at some vintage Nina shoes.
SF: You weren’t always part of Nina, the shoe empire. Talk to us about your professional background and how you ultimately ended up at Nina.
NM: I had my own thing for 25 years or so. For 25 years, I built The Children’s Place with my sister and brother-in-law. We took it from nothing to what you see today. It was our baby. But three years ago we had the opportunity to come to Nina. At the time, Nina had perhaps lost a little bit of its focus on who the Nina woman was. So we regrouped and have been working to take Nina back to being who she is, which is one of the most admired fashion brands.
It’s been a good 15 years that Nina was almost all special occasion, but we want to bring Nina back to daytime, too. Social is wonderful, but there are a lot of feet out there that need shoes all the time.
Nina standing next to a portrait of her father, Stanley Silverstein.
SF: You mentioned the Nina woman–who do you imagine this woman to be when you’re introducing new shoes?
NM: Women want to be attractive and Nina believes they should be. We want women to really feel attractive because the shoe makes the outfit and if it’s the right shoe it’s like a psychological lift. It’s all about the shoes.
Vintage Nina sketches.
SF: Your father started Nina 61 years ago–what’s he like?
NM: He’s still alive. He’s 90 and sharp as a tack. Sometimes he’ll say to me, ‘Nina, you don’t look good enough.’ And you know what? He’s right. He’s always willing to tell me I can do better. I’m so grateful to have someone I can trust, someone who says those things to me. He truly believes every woman should be the best they can be and that’s what really drives me.
I’ll never forget when I was 18 and getting ready for senior prom. My father said, I don’t care if you never wear Nina shoes as long as you have personal style. And that’s really it. It’s not about a brand thing, it’s about having style and that’s how we look at Nina shoes. Nina is a state of mind that you will have shoes that you feel pretty in, that you feel feminine in and that you feel comfortable in.
Inside the Nina Shoes showroom.
SF: Now that Nina is back in the family, how does your father feel you and your sisters are doing?
NM: I think he’s very satisfied with what we’re doing. You can never stop, though. You always have to beat what you did yesterday. But he let’s us run the show now.
SF: Nina is pretty iconic–were you nervous or hesitant about carrying on that legacy?
NM: Nina is an admired, trusted name. It’s a brand that people care about and we care about women. I believe women can do anything, so we want them to be able to come to Nina and find what they are looking for. Women want their feet to look pretty; women want their feet to look beautitful. Nina does that.
Nina showing off one of the brand’s stunning evening bags.
SF: What’s your hope for Nina now that you’re leading the design?
NM: Well for the last 15 years, we’ve been out of the mainstream shoe market because Nina was only doing special occasion, so that’s something I definitely want to change. I’ve always said, if you have a customer early, you have a customer for life. We’re definitely entry level for 15-year-olds and I hate to say it, exit level for 85-year-olds. The shoes we are doing now are as pretty as pretty shoes can be. And they’re only going to get prettier because we’re learning more and doing more and filling in the gaps for people. That’s the goal. Making shoes women can wear with pride, shoes that elevate you–that’s what Nina is.
SF: Your younger sister also works for Nina–what’s it like working so closely with your family?
NM: My sister Flori was in the Nina business all these years. She came into the business when she was 18. So she takes care of the daytime shoes whereas I manage the Nina brand, the kids business and the private label.
SF: Did you say you manage the kids business? What kids business?
NM: Well how could I leave what I did for 25 years? I couldn’t. When we came to Nina, we also had the opportunity to buy the stores from 77kids so we said, sure let’s do it. We inherited 21 stores from them, changed the name to Ruum Kids and made our own products.
A sneak peek at some Nina styles coming next season.
SF: You must really love retail–what drives you?
NM: It’s a gift to be able to get product out there that we think people will want in their lives. That is by far the bottom line–that we can do something to make someone happy. It’s so much more than getting a shoe out there. We want to affect a woman’s life.
SF: Are there any styles you’re excited about this fall?
NM: We have this great stretch boot. It’s got the perfect heel, not too high, not too low. Goes over the knee. I did it in metallic and turquoise suede and you can wear it under a skirt or over your jeans.
SF: We’ve only talked about your work, but you’re a mother and grandmother, too. How do you manage it all?
NM: Nobody does it well. When you work and have children, you can’t have everything. But thank God, my children grew up and met wonderful people. We all live in the same town now.
SF: When you’re not running Nina, what do you do?
NM: Sleep! I go home and sleep. How long I sleep depends on how much I’ve DVRd–I watch everything. The Killing was good. Game of Thrones. Scandal. The only I didn’t get into yet is Orange Is The New Black.
SF: So do you think this is the last stop for you?
NM: It may be the last stop, but not the last growth. I want to be here doing this and maybe ready-to-wear and grow off of it. Nina is one of the most desired footwear brands in the industry and I’m very excited to be able to affect women’s lives, especially because it has my name on it.
Click through the slideshow to shop our favorite shoes from Nina’s fall 2014 collection.
[Photo: Shelby Rodriguez]