How this entrepreneur became the shoe designer for Beyoncé and Lady Gaga
The legendary British fashion designer Alexander McQueen said, “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.”
That’s precisely how shoe designer Ruthie Davis has been able to create such a successful brand, which turns 10 years old this year. Her high-heeled statement pieces are favorites of celebrities like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato and Christina Milian.
AN AVANT GARDE CAREER PATH
Most designers come from a traditional fashion track, working as a designer for a label after graduating from an art school like Parsons or London College of Fashion. But Davis did not start her career in high fashion or editorial. Instead, she got her MBA in entrepreneurship from Babson College. She took her first job in California, managing a design and marketing team at Reebok (ADS.DE). But she quickly outgrew the role.
“I realized I had better ideas that were making more money than what the designers were creating, so I made the conscious decision to steer myself more in the design route,” Davis says.
Her next role was at Ugg Australia (DECK) — where she found herself in a hybrid designer/marketer role. Davis was at the forefront of transforming Ugg from an outdoor retail product targeted at surfers to a “more East Coast friendly, luxury, fashion-forward product.” While at Ugg, she knew she wanted to create her own brand and was ready to quit her day job to pursue her passion. Until Tommy Hilfiger (PVH) gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
One day, Davis was returning from a business trip to Brazil. Exhausted, she hopped on a phone call with her husband, who asked her a single question that was a pivotal turning point in her life: Is your goal to be the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger or to be Tommy Hilfiger?
“Tommy Hilfiger, of course,” she told him. It was at that moment she knew it was time to make plans to launch her brand.
Davis describes her shoe as the lovechild of a classic, high-fashion Manolo Blahnik and a Nike sneaker. “My whole idea was to take the modernism, the comfort, pop colors, and sizzle of a brand-new pair of athletic shoes and marinate that with the elegance, fierceness, and edginess of an incredible dress shoe,” she says.
Davis sells her shoes directly to consumers online and in select boutiques. A pair of Ruthies cost a pretty penny — ranging from $595 to $1,248.
She says her shoes aren’t for everyone, and that’s intentional. “Ruthies have a very specific look. I’m a small independent label,” she says. “I can’t be everything to everybody because then I would be nothing to anybody. I’ve never been a mass appeal look; I didn’t get into the business to do that.”
Ruthie Davis still controls her brand; she has one silent investor who owns 10% of the company. “A brand like this needs a lot of nurturing — you need to have control in the beginning. I’ve been very careful about how I’ve kept the brand very lean. But to take it to the next level, am I ever going to have to expand and add more investors? Absolutely,” she says.
Because of her background in business, Davis has been confident in her decision to keep the company so independent. Though she has been approached by various companies interested in acquiring the brand, she says she has yet to find the perfect fit.
“I’ve had offers, but they would have expected too much, and I don’t think I was ready,” she says. “I didn’t want to put that pressure on the brand.”
She says she is profitable enough to support her handful of employees, many of whom are independent contractors, based both domestically and overseas.
“It’s very difficult to be uber-profitable in a luxury label because the costs are so high and collections are so expensive to create. Neiman Marcus won’t come visit a home office. We can’t afford an ad in Vogue Magazine,” she says.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA FACTOR
So, how has Ruthie Davis been able to thrive in a luxury shoe market dominated by legacy brands like Christian Louboutin, Chanel, and Gucci?
Social media. “We’re on Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr — we do it all. They’re a huge vehicle for us. I basically don’t say no to anything,” she says.
She says she hasn’t had to pay bloggers and influencers to market her shoes because celebrity influencers have shown interest in her brand from day one. According to Davis, celebrities find out about her brand through social media and their stylists who are always looking for a unique, eye-catching accessory for red carpet events or performances.
“When it comes to girls on the red carpet or performers on stage or on television, they want to stand out,” she says. “There aren’t that many brands that you can go to to look really really special. They don’t want to be like everybody else. This brand is a great one to come to for that.”
THE RUNWAY AHEAD
Apart from social media, Davis says as a design brand, she’s challenged to keep her look fresh and inspired every day. The best way to do that has been to partner with other companies.
She’s collaborating with Universal Studios Illumination this fall and Home Shopping Network (HSN) next year.
“We’ve built tremendous brand equity equity and I feel we’re at the tipping point now,” she says. “Companies see the value of Ruthie Davis. They want Ruthie to design something for them.”
In October, she’s launching her own apparel line through Designow, a startup that’s helping take designers’ ideas from design sketch to reality. Though she’s taken on an ambassador role to mentor younger designers fresh out of art school, she’s working with Designow for her new line because it’s her first foray into apparel — a tough industry with high barriers to entry.
Despite the challenges in staying a competitive market, Davis says she’s optimistic about her company’s future.
“I see Ruthie Davis evolving into a fashion-entertainment brand. I’m not sure what exactly it will look like, but whether it’s collaborating with Universal Studios or me being a judge on a TV show or getting involved with reality TV, I’m embracing pop culture,” she says.
One thing is clear — Ruthie Davis and her shoes are one in the same: bright, passionate and fearless.
Congratulations to @hanhan_w for winning the @fashionscoutlondon SS17 Merit Award.
Born and raised in Hainan, China, Han Wen moved to the U.S 6 years ago and will be graduating from Parsons The New School for Design In May 2016. Being privileged enough to live in two great but very different countries; he is an innovative textile driven designer, who is constantly inspired to combine techniques and ideas from different cultures and to incorporate them into his collections.
These new textiles are thoughtfully applied with a natural method he develops for the silhouettes he designs. Constantly experimenting with new ways of creating textiles, he has been exploring different techniques as well as different materials. Han strives to create a balance between his passions of couture construction and wearable clothing.
Every design begins with a fantasy that allows him to rebel and escape from the unfair and unpleasant reality. With this, a confident, powerful and feminine woman figure was born, and this figure has led him to create a thesis collection that encapsulates all these aspects of this strong female figure.
VMM volume three entitled FEARLESS in the works. Coming to print soon.
Christie Brinkley’s Daughter, Sailor, Lashes Out at Internet Trolls: ‘Stop Comparing Me to My Mother’
Sailor Brinkley Cook, right, with her mom, Christie Brinkley, headed off to college earlier this week. (Photo: Instagram)
Sailor Brinkley Cook may resemble her famous mother, be in the same line of business, and even dress like her on occasion, but she’s still an individual. And today she’s an individual who is fed up with being compared to the modeling legend.
This should be an incredible week for the 18-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native — she begins college at Parsons School of Design. However, an online story about her mom, Christie Brinkley, helping her move to Manhattan for school brought out Internet trolls, and got under Sailor’s skin. “Fed up,” she took to Instagram to strike back against the haters.
A photo posted by Sailor Brinkley Cook (@sailorbrinkleycook) on Aug 17, 2016 at 6:38pm PDT
Topic 1? “Everyone needs to stop putting me and my siblings and me and my mother in competition,” Sailor wrote, referencing her half-sister, singer Alexa Ray Joel, 30, and half-brother, model and aspiring actor Jack Paris Brinkley Cook, 21. “I believe comparison will kill you. Comparison to others is toxic and unhealthy. As long as I am happy healthy and kind to others why should i care if i am not as ‘pretty’ as someone else ? Let alone not as ‘pretty’ as my own blood relatives?”
Her second point was to people criticizing her college selection.
“Pushing down the school i worked my ass off for 4 years to get into, saying its for do-nothing trust fund babies, is not only stereotyping a scholastic community but is just plain incorrect and rude! I know many kids enrolled in Parsons who are the most hard working and passionate students in all of new york.”
The last topic was the one she was the most passionate about — and she has “been meaning to touch on publicly for years.”
“Stop. comparing. me. to. my. mother,” wrote Sailor, Christie’s daughter from her fourth marriage, to architect Peter Cook. “Believe it or not I am my own person with my own beliefs and own thoughts and my own face! Eyes smile teeth forehead! All mine! The whole shabang! Yes i am so fortunate that my mother is my mother.. And she will always be an inspiration to me… But being constantly compared to her 50+ years of success at only 18 years old? And being told I could never amount to what she was and what she looks like? Doesn’t feel great.”
Christie with all three of her kids: Alexa Ray Joel (daughter of Billy), Sailor (daughter of Peter Cook), and Jack Paris Brinkley Cook (son of Richard Taubman, but adopted by Cook). (Photo: Instagram)
She continued, “I just will never understand these people who WANT to make me feel badly, who WANT to tell an 18 year old girl she cant follow her dreams because if she does she WONT BE AS GOOD AS HER MOM WAS. I’m just a person figuring out what i want to do and what makes me happy. Leave me alone.”
Her post ended with a wish. She asked people to “get off their computers” and “go chase a sunset, kiss someone they love, pursue one of their dreams and STOP making an 18 year old girl feel constantly inferior and hurt. Lets just f***in spread love you guys. And pleaseeeee stop trolling me.”
On Thursday morning, she followed up her Instagram post with this tweet, clearly proud of herself for speaking out (and she should be).
Really glad i spoke up about the comments i’ve received since i was 15 and started this whole 'following in my moms footsteps’ thing
Sailor is the youngest of Christie’s children — yep, the 62-year-old cover girl is now an empty nester — and has been modeling (she’s with IMG Models) for several years, sometimes with her brother. However, the “wannabe photographer” has said she wasn’t sure which profession she will ultimately pursue — because she’s 18. Who really knows what they want to do at 18?
Sailor’s words, especially about feeling “constantly inferior” and “hurt,” are especially poignant because her big sister went through something similar. Growing up, Christie’s daughter with Billy Joel, who has dealt with self-esteem issues, was often ripped to shreds online — and in the NYC newspapers — over her appearance.
“They would criticize her for her physical appearance,” Christie said on The Talk in 2010. “She’s beautiful, exotic, gorgeous, beautiful — like Sophia Loren. We just don’t look alike… So she gets criticized for not looking like me when she’s her own gorgeous, unique [person].” She said she wanted bloggers to stop their cyberbullying, as it was “hurtful and it really brings us all down.”
Now six years later, maybe this powerful post by Sailor will finally bring an end to the criticism.
Sasha Meneghel pode estrear como estilista antes mesmo de se formar, entenda!
Que a Sasha Meneghel é super talentosa a gente já sabia. A filha da Xuxa, que já completou 18 anos de idade com uma enxurrada de lindas mensagens, já foi atriz, brincou de apresentadora e parece que agora encontrou seu rumo no mundo da moda. Prestes a ingressar em uma das maiores faculdades de moda dos Estados Unidos, Parsons The New School of Fashion, Sasha também vai estrear na passarela mesmo sem o seu diploma. Isso porque ela vai assinar a mais nova coleção brasileira da Coca Cola Clothing, segundo informações do jornal Estadão, desta última terça-feira, dia 16, como ela mesma teria afirmando durante o Programa do Porchat, na Record. Procurada pelo ESTRELANDO, a assessoria de imprensa da marca revelou que ainda não tem informações oficiais sobre a notícia. Enquanto isso, que tal aproveitar e conferir os looks que provam que Sasha nasceu para ser estilista de moda, a seguir: