Designers Larose, Joseph
For fifty years, from 1949 to 1999, Joseph LaRose sold shoes in Jacksonville, Florida. Working closely with various manufacturers, Mr. LaRose customized color, design, detailing and materials to create shoes and matching handbags of the most incredible style, uniqueness and the perfect fit. It was his philosophy that good design would never go out of style. Mr. LaRose never put his shoes on sale, nor would he dispose of any of his inventory from his many stores in the Jacksonville area. He simply kept everything and sold shoes and handbags from his store, almost to his last day when he died last December.
Until now, no one had realized the scope of his vast inventory all these years. Estimates placed the collection at nearly 300,000 pairs of shoes and several thousand matching handbags.
Mr. LaRose’s flamboyant style and color sense infuse every pair of shoes and matching shoe and handbag sets. He was not interested in offering shoes that could be obtained at the local department store; he was interested in creating shoes of pure fantasy which included Boomerangs, Springolators, 70’s platforms, lucite heels, jewel encrusted mules of every description, exotic skins and fur – a veritable shoe museum.
In addition to the shoes and bags, Mr. LaRose kept meticulous records of his business and personal transactions. He believed in marketing and was a regular advertiser in all of the local Florida papers. Mr. LaRose also ran a thriving mail order business, specializing in hard to fit sizes and custom color matching. A skilled artist, LaRose made sketches of the shoes that appeared in many of his ads. To date over 70 of his original ink sketches have been discovered, along with copies of the ads as they appeared. Many of the original shoes pictured in the sketches have been discovered in the collection.
Joe LaRose had many celebrity clients. Correspondence from Joan Crawford, Jayne Mansfield, Betty Grable, Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby), Carol Channing, Brooke Shields, as well as others are part of his archives.
The Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art is moving into the space first occupied by the LaRose store from 1949 – 1980 and will maintain as part of its 20th century design collection 1,000 pairs of LaRose shoes and bags, in addition to a substantial portion of the archive. The Foundation is also looking to place a representative selection of shoes, bags, original sketches and archival material in museum shoe collections around the world to continue the design legacy of this extraordinary man.
La Rose picture and biography is presented with the kind permission from the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art