Most of you know that I study Fashion Management. But what does that really mean?
Long explanation short:
“How does the fashion business really work?”
Having Joshua Williams as a professor in this subject gives us certain benefits, one of them being able to attend the “Faces and Places” event. This is a type of lecture at FIT, where every Monday, a guest speaker (or several) comes and talks about different aspects of the fashion business. So why am I calling it a business and not an industry? Here‘s fashion management 101: the fashion industry refers to those engaged in manufacturing and production, while the fashion business include all the industries and services like design, distribution, manufacturing, merchandising etc. (Thank you Dynamics of Fashion)
As New York is the business fashion capital in the world, you can imagine that we get the opportunity to meet people with a certain status in the world of fashion. Like today, we met Ruthie Davis. But who is Ruthie Davis?
If you want the answer you can 1. Google her or 2. keep on reading.
Ruthie Davis is an acknowledged shoe designer, where her brand has existed for 7 years, she has produced 20 collections and these are sold in 30 different countries (Norwegian/Scandinavian readers can buy her shoes at http://www.brandos.no).
But what’s her story?
I could really copy-paste everything from her website, but, no.
Well, Davis never really wanted to be a designer. She descends from a writer family, where both her parents are journalists, and her grandfather has a place in the Advertising Hall of Fame. She is the youngest of 6 children, who all grew up in Connecticut. Her passion for sports has been a huge part of her since her childhood; to that degree that she wanted to be an Olympic skier or a professional tennis player. She also had a fondness for architecture and art, which is visible in her shoes. During her younger years, she used to draw shoes, not design them, and later she started using watercolors to add color to her art.
She never though about doing anything with about her penchant for art and architecture, so she majored in English and minored in liberal and visual arts in Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Davis was determined in becoming a sports writer, and she managed to “sort of” get a job in the Hartford Courant. This was followed by a job in ESPN, later she became a sportscaster on air and she even opened an aerobic studio.
Ruthie Davis found herself wanting more with her live, this resulting in her return to the school bench to study Entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Later, this gave her the opportunity to work for Rebook after having made a “walking video”. Being employed as an associate product manager, she graduated with an MBA and went straight into the job.
Rebook got a metamorphosis when Davis entered the business, and she left it leaving several marks, such as the renewed DMX Walker Model and the colors of the model. The lucky company who got this woman was UGG Australia, where she designed new models showing more of the sheep wool and made the shoes water resistant. She also did her part in making UGGs more wintery to the East Coast, taking it from sand to skiing to luxury.
After leaving her mark on UGGs as well, Ruthie went to Italy to pursue her dream of having her own shoe label. The Christmas holidays of 2011, she was contacted by Tommy Hilfiger who wanted her to transform his women footwear. Both the models and the marketing methods got Davis’ marks by adding cute, fun and glam to the portrait of Tommy Girl Shoes.
Finally the time to pursue her dream arrived, and brand names were discussed. The name evolved from Davis to Davies by Ruthie Davis to Ruthie Davis ®. She continued consulting for Tommy Hilfiger while working on her own collection for another 6 months.
So what was a pair of Ruthie Davis®?
“Imagine Manolo Blahnik and Nike having a baby”
The signature titanium wedge represented the high tech transformed into high fashion by using modern architecture. Of course people didn‘t think the titanium wedge would be a good idea, it was expensive and difficult to produce. Davis was determined to produce these and used a golf ball and airplane parts factory make these. She got a gallery space in Chelsea, NY, barely made the deadline for the event and invited people over to check out her collection, mostly made up by carbon fiber and other high tech-looks. Most of her shoes were made in China at this point.
Soon, the shoes were used during the fashion show of Doo Ri, where Anna Wintour was one of the guests. She had made it far, very far.
But then what?
She had no connections in the luxury business and she got no response from the people she tried to contact.
So, what happens now?
She went for a run, which is the best asset in clearing her mind and decided to open her own store. When reaching the Meatpacking District, she ended up in a little French store called B8 couture and managed to book her first appointment.
And then she made her first sale. And then she arranged a new event.
Things went well for the Chinese produced shoes, until Jeffrey Kalinsky called. Getting that privilege only meant one thing:
She had to move the production to Italy.
And start over. Knowing no one, having no connections.
But she managed to get in the game and stay there, while making an impression. She won the Best Booth Design in Vegas based trade shows, and she also realized that the titanium wedge’s time was over.
It was time for a new signature shoe:
“Junk in the trunk”
Believe it or not, but Ruthie Davis® was the first brand to put a bunch of studs on the heel.
And then she produced sneakers, while getting showrooms in Milan and LA.
Her love for architecture, minimalism, color playfulness, clean lines and Nike‘s is clearly seen through all her shoes. She checks every single pair, with a little help, before shipping them out. She is also the one who sketches the shoes.
So what can we learn from Ruthie Davis?
She gave some advice, some key sentences in her presentations that I managed to write down:
“You have to see the dream to realize the dream”
“I am a strong believer in following my passion”
Like many other successful fashion designers, Ruthie Davis worked for several other brands before pursuing her own dream and creating her own brand. While working for other brands, she had a constant reminder of her dream, inspiration and vision on a white table containing Dior sport, Prada Sport, Chanel Sport and The Titanium Powerbook G4.
I believe you understand how inspirational I found this presentation as I have ended up writing a blog post on Ruthie Davis’ life. Check out her website by clicking here or on the picture.