Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Gainsborough Shoes

Paisley wool and brown suede platforms by Gainsborough, came with original sales receipt dated May 1948. Donated by Susan Langley to the Fashion History Museum in 2009.

This installment of the Fashion Hall of Obscurity is truly obscure — Gainsborough was a manufacturer of medium to high priced high-fashion footwear in Miami Beach, Florida but I haven’t been able to find anything else about this long defunct company.

Newspaper and magazine advertisements were found for Gainsborough shoes dating between 1937 and 1966 – likely the approximate dates of the company’s operation. If anyone knows more about Gainsborough, please share – I would be grateful for the information.

(Added June 21/2012: Reader ‘Sandra’ very kindly added a link to a 1949 article she discovered that gave a little bit more information. Jack Rimler was the creator and designer of Gainsborough shoes. The shop apparently had a leopard decorated salon, and his shoes started at around $37.50 – not inexpensive. The writer asked Rimler if he thought his shoes were in good taste – to which Rimler said he considered himself one of the few who had dared to give a ‘new look’ to shoe fashions and that many of today’s better shoe salons were lacking fashion foresight. In his opinion, his shoes were as much a part of the high fashion scene as Christian Dior. “I do not create for the housewife, the rural country club woman nor the average woman who boasts only one pair of dress shoes.” The article then takes a bizarre turn regarding the morals of the women who wear his shoes – I think that’s 1949 for ‘your shoes look like they were made for a hooker’ which Rimler refuses to discuss. The writer of the article concludes that although his shoes may not be in the best of taste, that they are beautifully made of the finest materials.)

With the name of the owner/designer now, I found that Jack Rimler was born July 6, 1895 in New York. His wife Ann passed away in 1956, and he died in February 1967 in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Added May 25/2017: Reader Diana added a personal reminiscence of Jack Rimler – her grandfather in the comments section – see below:

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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26 Responses to Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Gainsborough Shoes

  1. edgertor says:

    did they use the heart at the back of the ankle motif all the time? bc i’ve seen other platforms on ebay with that detail–and always beautiful and expensive.

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s a clever little styling detail that I have seen before but I haven’t been keeping track if that is something only Gainsborough did, or if it was used by other makers as well.

  2. Sandra says:

    Hi –
    I was came across your post – as I too was looking on more info on this amazing shoe designer. I just found a pair at a flea a few weeks ago- they are FANTASTIC. I also found this article http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19490816&id=hawyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=KeoFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2746,293038
    I love that it says these are not shoes for respectable women 🙂
    Cheers!

  3. Harriet says:

    My mother had a number of pairs of Gainesborough shoes and matching handbags. We lived in New York but spent time during the winter in Miami Beach. The shoes were artistic, beautiful materials (ie.,metallic leather with tiny studs accenting a slightly lighter suede) and used a lot of ankle straps as I recall from the late 1950’s.
    They set a style and were comfortable…now a lost art. The handbags were structured and a lovely compliment. Jack Rimler was a true artist. They were appropriately pricey…and unique without being outrageous as so many seem to be today.

    • Jonathan says:

      If she kept them – let me know!

      • Harriet says:

        Sorry I didn’t get back to see this sooner. No, sadly, after many moves, changes in lifestyle (from Scarsdale, NY to Orlando, FL in 1960!) they went the way of the silk blouses with discreet, delicately hand painted and beaded designs and are long since history. Ironically, I started my working career in fashion and love my many Stuart Weitzman (timeless, creative comfort)and an equally timeless Bruno Magli. No one creates like Jack Rimler! His was a labor of love.

  4. Shayna says:

    Hey Jonathan-
    My father who had a shoe store on Lincoln road in 1971 has only heard stories of this store called Gainsborough! Over the years her acquired 2 pairs of sandals with sea shells today in Goodwill he found a gorgeous pair of pumps can we send you a picture ? Please email me at your earliest convince .

  5. Louise Hand-Mihalek says:

    I have a pair of Gainesborough heels I would like to sell. Any suggestions on pricing?

  6. Pingback: "I think that’s 1949 for ‘your shoes look like they were made for a hooker’..." - IanDrummondCollection

  7. Desire says:

    Gainsborough shoes are beautifully designed and crafted. I am fortunate to have at least one pair in my collection, and was delighted to learn about their designer, JackRimler. I will use some of this very helpful information (giving appropriate credit, of course), along with a pair of 1940s platform sandals from Gainsborough, in a book I am currently writing about 20th century fashion footwear. Thank you so much, Jonathan.

  8. lori says:

    MY great uncle was Jack Rimler. I met him only a few times, but I have many wonderful stories about his life from my mother and grandmother. He was quite the looker, Uncle Jack, similar to David Niven, and dressed like a million bucks. He also was a charming man who dated Greta Garbo. His shoe store was famed and attracted actresses and NYC elite. Mom said Uncle Jack used to bring home alligator shoes for her. I have a cherished photo of Jack 10×12, smoking a cigarette dressed in a stylish 1940’s suite. They didnt look more handsome than him, that’s for sure. Sorry I cant help out with more info about the store, but all his generation are long gone, as well as the next generation gone, that would be his niece( my mother and her siblings and cousins).

  9. Elena techet says:

    Jonathan. I am a vintage collector and have an amazing pair of Gainsborough shoes.
    I’d love to send you a photo.

  10. Diane Abramson Shafer says:

    Jack Rimler was my grandfather. My mother was born to his first wife, Mabel, in Brooklyn, NY in 1913. As a child, in the late 1950’s, I flew down from New York City with my mother to visit him in Miami Beach. We spent many hours in his shoe salon on Lincoln Road. Although he learned about the shoe business from working in Delman’s in New York, his shoes and coordinated bags reflected his own unique sense of style and flair. He hated the mundane and looked upon his products as wearable works of art. In addition to in-store sales, his creations were sold through a beautifully designed catalogue (a few of which I still have) to Hollywood starlets and other high-end customers. Quality materials and adornments, superior construction, and high fashioned styling were hallmarks of his label. Unfortunately, he made some poor business decisions. He chose to move and expand his salon on Lincoln Road at a point when weather and tourism were turning against the exclusive shops of Lincoln Road. In an effort to save his brand he put his own money into the business. He lost everything. Had this not been the case, I would have likely taken over his business one day. Nevertheless, I did inherit his love of unique shoes and bags and never settle for anything ordinary. His portrait, which once hung in the salon, now hangs in my home.
    Diane

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Diane for that great personal reminiscence. I would LOVE to have photocopies of the catalogues for the museum… hint hint….

  11. Thomas Gust says:

    I have one copy of an original catalog. Gainsborough Ltd., Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
    dated 1949. I will send pictures to curator@fashion…..

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