The French fashion designer, Christian Louboutin, whose shiny, high-end stiletto footwear has made him famous said: “A shoe has much more to offer than just to walk.”
Don’t they know it. Fashion has been a culture, a legacy in the Gelber family since the 19th century. Designer Rick Gelber’s maternal great-grandfather owned a dress manufacturing company on Washington Avenue in St. Louis. His paternal great-grandfather operated Gelber’s Men’s Clothing here. Today, Rick and his wife, Cynthia Gelber, own and operate Cynthia Richard, a luxury shoe brand that espouses the belief that true confidence is found within and will always speak louder than the latest trend.
Rick spent most of his own fashion career traveling through Europe, Asia and Brazil as a designer, creative director and general manager for Caleres, Inc. (formerly Brown Shoe Co founded in 1875 in St. Louis). He introduced the Carlos by Carlos Santana shoe brand over a decade ago at Caleres.
“We grew up wearing the samples that the department stores didn’t take,” says the Gelbers' daughter, Megan Perry, who marveled at her father’s designs for years. “They took the safe shoes. My sisters and I disagreed with what the department stores picked and thought even then that we should have a family line. Kids at school would say, ‘Where did you get those?’ They called us the ‘Gelber Girls with The Best Shoes.’ We learned to build our outfits from the shoes up. My dad would design these amazing shoes, and we weren’t able to tell people where they could get them.”
But it was Cynthia who ultimately encouraged the newest Gelber family business. “She’s always the best-dressed person in the room,” Megan says of her mom. For years, Cynthia wanted to work with her husband. She started the Cynthia Richard LLC in 2012, but didn’t use it until she and Rick came up with what they believed would be the perfect family business for them. Now, the whole family is involved, except for the Gelber’s son, who owns his own business selling exotic Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
“We know that what you put on changes the way you feel about yourself,” Rick says. “That is why we have taken the time to create a collection that will help build your own spirit. Fashion is a process of truly discovering who you are and what makes you feel alive.”
And like the five generations of their family before them, Rick and Cynthia, along with their three daughters, want to help their clientele find shoes that will make getting ready easy, effortless and exciting. They want to share their shoe collection that they say “is designed with your story at the center.”
At Cynthia Richard, Rick says the family embraces certain “style truths” that they stand by. “Confidence is sexy,” Rick says. In other words, fashion is an expression of who you are and how you feel about yourself. He says Cynthia Richard shoes are modern affordable luxury, made in Italy and Brazil.
The Gelbers’ designs “command presence in the room without trying,” Rick says. “True style never tries too hard. It’s a differential factor from our competition. Cynthia Richard offers bold styles with unexpected embellishments.”
But he hasn’t gotten away from the truth that his family, past and present, has been the driving force in his success. “We aim to be the top affordable luxury shoe brand recognized worldwide for elegant high-quality shoes that reflect personality and allow customers to feel they are wearing a unique extension of themselves. We aspire to develop relationships with our clients inviting them to be part of our life that embraces luxury fashion while staying deeply rooted in our love for family and authentic living,” he says.
Rick says at the end of the day, his family’s brand is built around the notion that “The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling. And rules are meant to be broken. You don't have to settle for the status quo. First, demand more. Second, go out and get it.”