It was a pair of red patent-leather Mary Janes that kicked off designer Ruthie Davis’ love of shoes. The style maven was two years old when she first fell in love with footwear and today, her burgeoning empire continues to attract loyal followers across the globe. Modern, glamorous and playful, Ruthie Davis’ creations are immediately identifiable with powerful details—from metal studs to deconstructed heels—that put her in a category of her own.
“A heel is like the foundation of a house,” says Davis. “It is the critical piece that completes a woman’s look when she wants to look and feel her best. I’m not saying heels should be worn twenty-four seven, there is a time for flats and sneakers. But when a woman is stepping out and wants to be glam, a high heel is a critical piece of the equation.” And indeed, it’s this ethos that sees the designer continue to create new and innovative ways of expression through the ever-popular high heel. “I am inspired by what a woman wants: to look beautiful and confident, powerful and sexy.”
Drawn to fast, risky colours such as bright neon’s and space-age metallic’s, Davis’ inspiration comes from modern architecture with its sleek and linear yet edgy lines. “My muse is an action heroine chock full of girl power,” says Davis. “You could say I am a visionary who is always imagining life as a futuristic Bond Girl in a one-piece cat suit living in a modern spacecraft house with shoes to die for.”
Launched in 2006, Davis’ namesake line is relatively new on the luxury shoe scene. For shoe lovers, however, it seems like it’s been a part of the fashion forward landscape forever. “I still feel like I’m the new young luxury brand,” explains Davis. “I think it’s because I will always be so in awe of the brands I sit next to on the shelf like Gucci, Prada and YSL. I love what I do and am excited every day to be living my dreams.”
From Beyoncé pronouncing her love of Ruthie Davis designs to Christina Ricci stepping out with her Dr. Spike II handbag, there have been many defining moments for this talented designer who has honed her skills working in some of the industry’s most recognized brands. “You need to work hard, pay your dues and soak it all up for years before you’re ready to tackle the tough business side of fashion,” says Davis. “Shoes are like people. If you want to make it as a shoe designer, you need to stand out in the crowd—have your own unique DNA—show innovation and take risks.”
Davis is a big advocate of learning on the job and worked for Reebok and UGG Australia before launching her own label. ”In all of my corporate jobs I learned how to create an innovative design that has a specific consumer target in mind with a story behind it that is marketable. For example, at Reebok I added more fashion and bright colours to the Reebok Classic sneakers that made them hook up with what people were wearing in apparel. I added the sizzle to the steak. At UGG, I took a surfer brand and turned it into a fashion brand. This kind of experience gives you the confidence to make things happen when you do it for yourself. I highly recommend for all designers to gain knowledge and experience working for larger brands before starting their own labels.”
From handbags and heels to flats and clutches, the Ruthie Davis fan can finally be outfitted head to toe. “The good news is that the matching shoes and bag trend has cycled back to today,” says Davis. “This is why I decided to launch handbags, as I see a woman’s handbag as the ultimate accessory to her shoes. Like my shoes, my handbags are very specific and fashion risk taking. You will not see normal, everyday handbags from Ruthie Davis.”
Inspired by mid-century modern architects such as Richard Neutra, Albert Frey and Donald Wexler, to fashion icons Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, Ruthie Davis herself continues to be an inspiration to fans of fabulous design everywhere. Thank goodness for those ruby slippers that set her on the path to heavenly heels.