Bold, sexy, empowering, and brightare just a few of the words to describe a Ruthie Davis shoe created by Ruthie herself. As one of the few female women’s shoes designers in the United States, she has elevated our shoe game and taken footwear to a whole new level.
Ruthie’s love of shoes began at a young age, however, becoming a shoe designer was not on her radar. As an athlete, the future designer’s focus was on sports, with the dream of becoming a downhill ski racer.
“I always dreamed big, of doing something awesome,” she explains. “I didn’t just dream of being a ski racer, I wanted to be an Olympic skier and win medals.”
Ruthie’s passion and drive for whatever she focused her talents on is what led to finding success with companies like Reebok, UGG, and Tommy Hilfiger. Known for taking a great shoe and making it more relevant is just one the many traits that sets Ruthie apart. She did it with UGG, making the brand, which was originally based on the West Coast, not only fashionable, but East Coast-relevant.
At Tommy Hilfiger, Ruthie took her job a step further and launched an entirely new division under the company’s umbrella, Tommy Girl Shoes, designing styles that were a bit younger and hipper.
“Every corporate job I had I thought of it as my own,” says Ruthie. “From day one, I started planning to have my own company. I did very entrepreneurial things that were beyond my job description.”
Fast forward to 2006, as Ruthie stepped away from the corporate world to launch her eponymous brand. She hasn’t looked back since. Right out of the gate, Ruthie’s shoes combined the two schools of thought she has always loved—the sportiness of a sneaker and the fashion of a high platform heel.
To this day, Ruthie continues to remain true to that concept, along with sharing her knowledge by giving back to the community she loves dearly.
BELLA recently sat down with the woman who has taken fashion footwear to the next level to talk about all things shoes, which just so happen to also be one of our favorite accessories!
What is it about shoes that fascinate you?
I realized at a young age that shoes made a huge difference in a functional way. As an athlete, I had a lot of shoes for my sports, and I understood the differences and how they worked. I also loved how shoes make you taller, they affect the architecture of your body, they transform you. I’ve always been about the lines, and fascinated by the proportions of things.
As a creator, from where do you derive your inspiration?
The 70s is my favorite time period, mixed with a high-tech futurism. I’m inspired by mid-century modern architecture, the lines, and the minimalism. But the number one thing I’m inspired by are real people and what they’re wearing. That’s why I like living in New York City—I walk everywhere, and I am constantly looking at what people have on, how they put it together, and why. It’s important for me to understand the entire outfit so I can design a shoe that works in the context of the outfit. I’m really a street brand as I take my number one influence from the streets.
When it comes to designing, which part of the process do you enjoy most?
I love a lot of different aspects, and as a brand, there are different stages. I like the stage I’m at now. I have a lot of proven styles, and it’s not like every season I’m starting from scratch and making new patterns. I’m coming up with different ways to make things fresh and relevant.
I’ve had those really cool designs, but they didn’t always sell well. While they looked great in magazines, real people weren’t buying them. Now I’m about what my customer wants, and they don’t necessarily want me to reinvent the wheel. They may just want the season’s new color or material or a tweak to update their favorite style. This is what excites me now—fine-tuning the product to make it better, not a completely new version. Sometimes less is more.
What do you hope a Ruthie Davis shoe will do for the person wearing them?
I want people to feel good in their own skin, to feel empowered, happy, strong, and beautiful. As a woman designing for women, I test-drive all of the shoes. Most brands like mine are designed by men; they don’t wear the shoes, I do. I design a shoe that doesn’t hurt and that makes the leg, foot, and ankle all look pretty. It’s my job to make you look and feel amazing.
As we head into fall, what styles and trends have you excited?
I’m very excited about fashion right now. I think there’s a lot of great [things] to come out of the pandemic. People are excited to be back out, and they’re taking that little bit of extra time to look even more stylized. I’m seeing a lot of dresses paired with designer sneakers; people want to keep the comfort that they had, be chill and laid back, while still looking glam and polished.
We’re also seeing a lot of stylized outfits, from the bag, to the jewelry, and the hair…it’s those editorial head-to-toe looks, and that’s my favorite trend right now. Accessories are also making a comeback, and along with that is a huge opportunity in footwear to really innovate. It’s an exciting time for shoes to step up and step out.
And people are excited to step up their game. They want the bright colors and the neons, and while fall usually gets more muted with the blacks and browns, I don’t think that’s going to happen this season.
In addition to your designs, you also collaborate with other brands. Is there someone in particular you’d love to design with?
I think my dream would be a brand like Moncler. My first love of fashion was my ski racing outfits—I loved the aerodynamic one-piece catsuits and the fitted down jackets. I would really love to design a whole Moncler outfit and some killer Moncler heels! I think it would also be pretty cool to collaborate with a running shoe brand.
Can you share some examples of how you give back to the fashion community through your teaching and mentorship?
From day one I have given back; it’s part of what I do. I’m a shoe designer, and I pay it forward. Over the years I’ve spoken at numerous schools and universities, I’ve taught classes, and I sit on many committees and panels, all focused on helping students. I also take on some individual mentees, whether it’s one of my students or someone who follows me on social media. I even try and incorporate it into my everyday life, taking time to help the people I work with, even if it’s not a formal mentorship, but to help those who may not be established in their careers just yet—to give them a shot.
My message has always been entrepreneurship and sharing with others how you do it and how you get started. Anyone with a dream who is willing to work hard can do it.
How do you define success?
I see success as running a profitable, well-managed company, loving what I do, and feeing good about it. It’s not about being a famous shoe designer, that’s not my definition of success. Personally, I don’t subscribe to “bigger is better.” I’m about quality of life, not quantity. Success is really where you’re happy in your day. I want to be doing something where I feel excited to get up and inspired to do it.
What lies ahead for you and the Ruthie Davis brand?
I always know there are exciting things happening because that’s how I operate. I’m focused on the present, continuing to do what I’m doing right now while servicing my customers, keeping my business profitable, selling shoes, and marketing my brand. I’m not so much thinking future as much as present and really continuing to get better every day.
I once read something that said, “Every day go to bed smarter than the day before,” and so every day I want to go to bed with my brand being better than the day before.
Further into the future, I want to continue to do all the things I love, empower women, and continue to innovate products. Along with looking to expand on the athleisure category, I’m starting to create extended sizing, and I’d like to take it up a notch with gender fluid shoes—Ruthie Davis shoes for any size while keeping true to my aesthetic. I’ve always stood for diversity and inclusivity, and that’s something I’m going to continue to expand on.
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