The beginning

The road to Vida

The story of Vida starts even earlier than its official launch in 1973. Victor Dabah comes from a family that was long rooted in the footwear industry. As a young man of 18, he moved from Panama to the United States to join the military. While he was initially posted to a missile base but without U.S. birth right citizenship, he wasn’t allowed on the actual base! So instead he served as an accountant for the unit. Mr. Dabah recalls, “While I truly believed in the profession and wanted to be an accountant, it soon became clear, I couldn’t look at numbers all day.”

Returning stateside, Mr. Dabah considered various careers, including accounting, and as he says, “I asked the head of a big company in the Empire State Building, what’s the most an accountant can make in your company?”, Evidently the response wasn’t what Mr. Dabah was hoping for, as the accounting field shortly had one less member.


Phase 1 – Trading Company

1973 – Vida is founded, beginning as a trading company in Mr. Dabah’s parent’s basement. He was one of the first Westerners doing shoe business in China. “We started doing business in the hosiery area of the department stores of the day. The shoes were sold on hangers, and were considered accessories.”

Both Gabe Safdeye, Mr. Dabah’s nephew and current Vice President of Vida, and Solomon Dabah recall their youth when guests would come from Asia, sitting at the dinner table while the family talked about business. It was a story of travel, oversea exploits, exploration and exciting new opportunities. This sense of exploration and excitement remains at the core of Vida to this day.

In 1975 “Mr. Dabah looks back, “after a couple of years I decided I had grown enough to move out of the basement. and moved into the Empire State building.” Vida opened their flagship offices on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building.


Phase 2 - Licensing

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s Vida grew, sourcing private label footwear for the mass merchant channel that was the wholesale leader of the time. Caldor, Venture, Bradlees, K-Mart, they were just a few of the chains that Mr. Dabah and his small team serviced. Even the giant of that channel, Walmart, was a key Vida account. But as the retail chains grew, they began to source their own footwear, and wanted to consolidate their outside vendors. “We realized the way to be successful was to license brands to control our own destiny.” said Gabe Safdeye. Brands gave us the opportunity to use our product knowledge and marketing skills to show retailers what we believed in. This was the next step in the evolution of Vida.

This timely change to becoming a licensing company created additional distribution and steady growth for Vida, and in 1989 the company moved to their current home on 56th Street in Manhattan. At the time, Vida only occupied the top floor, leasing the remainder to other businesses, including a restaurant on the ground level. But over the following 25+ years, as the Vida business grew, eventually every floor was needed, and now Vida has expanded into additional space in Midtown NYC.

The 1990’s were a pivotal decade, as Vida became a trusted branded women’s resource with the launch of licenses Esprit® in 1996 and UNIONBAY® in 1999. In 1998, Vida made their initial investment into the children’s market, a long-term licensing agreement with the most trusted name in children’s apparel, Carter’s®, Inc. After 20+ years of continued growth, Vida continues to work closely with these heritage brands.


Phase 3 – Urban Pioneers

2001-2007 represented another evolutionary period in Vida’s history, licensing the phenomenally popular Phat Farm and Baby Phat brands, and working closely with their founder, Russell Simmons. This led to a collaboration with Vanessa and Angela Simmons in 2007, mutually launching the Pastry® brand, which has since evolved to become America’s #1 dance sneaker today under Vida’s direction. “We were fortunate enough to realize the strength of the urban market at that time” said Solomon Dabah, who is Mr. Dabah’s son, and the current President of Vida.  Vida was known as an early pioneer in urban fashion, as Solomon points to the selling of 15 million pairs of the iconic Phat Classic style. This period led to Vida’s entre’ to pop culture, with Solomon’s brief TV fame as a frequent guest on the hit reality show “Run’s House” and later, Pastry being referenced in chart topping Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ song “Empire State of Mind.”

2008-Present day

Phase 4 – Broad Based

The seasoned leadership team of Victor Dabah, Solomon Dabah, and Gabe Safedye alongside many longtime, passionate and determined employees has allowed Vida to grow and prosper. The genuine comradery, respect and honesty each has for the other has successfully guided Vida through many changes in the US footwear market over the years. As the company’s focus has shifted from mass merchants to upscale department stores, family channel mid-tier stores and leading independent retailers, along with the tremendous emergence of online merchants, the Vida team has always looked forward, building a portfolio of brands that service every tier of the shoe market.

In 2010 Vida entered the outdoor market with the launch of fashion + comfort brand, Jambu®. This brand would serve as a platform for outdoor fashion to all price points, at all distribution channels including direct to consumer with the launch of in 2014.

2013 was the year that propelled Vida into the luxury women’s fashion market with the acquisition of Andre Assous® footwear. Long known for their beautiful hand-sewn espadrilles, the collection has been expanded to a full-year business, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the Andre Assous® heritage.

Vida reached a key milestone in 2017 by becoming the number 1 resource of branded toddler footwear in the US market. Vida had long been a dominant player in the toddler footwear arena, with Carter’s® and OshKosh B’Gosh® footwear. The addition of the legendary Stride Rite® license to this portfolio now saw Vida Kids product across all channels of distribution.

In 2020 and 2021, Vida added Bruno Magli and Splendid brands to the portfolio, rounding out the women’s category and bringing Men’s to the playing field. The iconic Kenneth Cole brand was next — developing, sourcing, producing and selling women’s shoes under the Kenneth Cole New York and Kenneth Cole Reaction brands, as well the Gentle Souls label for both men and women.


Going forward

They say the more things change, the more they remain the same. Vida has always innovated and created change to meet shifts in consumer behavior; from pioneering trends like urban fashion to technological improvements in the way they shop. This constant change has ensured growth and development and at the same time, retained our original core values. This spirit of innovation and adventure continues as Vida embraces the next step in the company’s evolution.