Whether crafting a pair of sky-high stilettos or spiked sneakers, Ruthie Davis is always thinking about the woman on the go. One such is new mom and force of nature Beyoncé—Davis’ biggest celebrity fan. Their relationship is so solid that Davis even created a custom pair of Swarovsky sneakers for baby Blue Ivy. To boot (quite literally), Lady Gaga, Fergie, and Kelly Osbourne are also steadfast supporters of the brand, which launched in 2006, after Davis had honed her skills working for major shoemakers like Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, and UGG. While at Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour to launch her resort 2013 collection, we spoke to Davis at length on inspiration, friends in high places, and total shoe world domination.
With style names like “West Palm Platform” and “Boca,” it seems like South Florida was a big inspiration for your resort 2013 line.
RUTHIE DAVIS: Absolutely. South Florida was definitely part of the inspiration for the new resort collection. How could you not be inspired by South Florida for resort, right? I really wanted to make a collection that was very elegant, classy, sophisticated, and somewhat minimal in the sense of using beautiful, more muted tones, nudes, and pastels and then add the youthful, sexiness, fun, and a little bit of an edge that is always a part of my brand. It fits really well for South Florida. This is an area with a lot of history and a classic side to it, but yet the people here are fun. You have that Latin sexiness in the mix.
What sort of things do you consider when designing a shoe?
RD: My brand is always going to be inspired by Miami, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and a bit of New York City. I'm always going to love the midcentury modern feeling, Art Deco, indoor-outdoor concepts, and nature—it's part of every collection. Also, as a woman and shoe designer, which is actually rare because most high fashion shoe designers are men, I really like to work with the female body and make women feel wonderful by working with their bodies.
What would you say is the biggest design risk you've taken thus far?
RD: Recently I'd say this seven-inch wedge. I call it the Lady Gaga shoe. It's a crazy wedge. I did it last season as a bootie and now I have it coming out for spring as a sandal-shoe. What's interesting is that a lot of buyers and my employees were scared. And then it sold out instantly. I believe they retailed for over $2,000 a pair. That got me excited. [It] may not be for the masses, but the people that want it really want it.
What lessons did you learn from working at Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, and UGG?
RD: I think the most valuable thing is at the end of the day you have to trust your gut. You have to have your structure and plan and all those functional things you learn in such companies, but you must have the confidence to have a vision. I also learned, and am a big proponent of, the relationship between marketing and design. I think about the marketing plan when I'm designing a shoe. I'm thinking about what celebrities might wear it, what magazine it may go in, what stores might sell it, and how I will market it.
Speaking of celebrities, is there anyone in particular who you feel embodies your brand?
RD: Well, obviously I love Beyoncé. She's worn my shoes many times and she's such a lovely person and is so gorgeous and gracious. She would certainly be number one. I also love Elizabeth Banks, Christina Ricci, and Nikki Reed. I love girls with personality.
You even made shoes for Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy. How did that happen?
RD: Beyoncé has been such a fan and I know she loves Swarovski crystals, so I decided to do a mini sneaker for Blue Ivy with Swarovski crystals. [Blue Ivy] is growing so fast that I'm actually working on getting her a couple more pairs.
You also make super-chic sneakers for grown-ups.
RD: I tend to be a sneaker girl. I like running around New York City, L.A., or wherever in my kicks, but I also like the sneakers to go well with the same outfit I would wear with my shoes. So I put my shoes in my bag and switch them out. I always wanted to have sneakers. It has been so well received that stores have asked for them in men's sizes. So we're launching men's sneakers for fall.
Any plans to open a flagship store?
RD: You sniffed that one out! We've got some things we are working on. The home of the brand is New York City, so that will be the first flagship. Miami would be pretty high on the flagship list, given my special affinity for this area.
What are some goals you have for yourself and the brand for 2013?
RD: It's time for the home of Ruthie Davis, the flagship store. It's time to consider new collaborations. Launching men's is important. I do want to be a lifestyle brand and have other products. I have dabbled in handbags and it is something I want to take to the next level. We have a lot of exciting things planned. We're launching at Bloomingdale's in New York and L.A. and doing events in the spring. The brand is still growing and building. The only analogy I can give is we're to about to take off. Mark my words!