Skip to main content

Ruthie Davis on Luxury, Sneakers and Conquering Social Media

Designer Ruthie Davis is spending New York Fashion Week catching up with old friends and making new connections before a busy spring season begins. Vamp caught up with the in-the-know designer on how the tanking Euro is affecting luxury business, the appeal of high-end sneakers and how social media is reaching customers on a deeper level then ever before.

Sneak Sense
Long before sneakers by Lanvin and Alexander Wang were dueling for floor space at Barney’s, Ruthie Davis — designer, entrepreneur, New Yorker, athlete — began dabbling in luxury sneakers.

It was Fall ’11, and having experienced the highs and lows of sneaker fashion in the ’90s, Davis could sense something greater than the occasional weekend Converse brewing on New York City streets once again. “The modern woman is mobile, moving around and always in motion. She needs to be comfortable,” Davis said. “Plus, sneakers are just cooler than ballerina flats. They are the more modern and youthful way to be comfortable.”

Not to mention becoming increasingly more acceptable. Take it from a woman who made her mark designing spiked stiletto heels — Davis has fully embraced sneakers into her own Manhattan-ite uniform. “Wedge sneakers, skinny jeans, a tank and leather jacket are my staples,” Davis said. “Some sneaker silhouettes might trend away, but the concept of comfort in motion is never going to go to disappear.”

Just like Ugg, a brand Davis helped transform into a mainstay in women’s wardrobes worldwide, Davis expects fashion sneakers to stick in the market for years to come, so long as brands offer newness. “The women who wears sneakers, as well as myself, want options. I don’t want just one type of sneaker. I want hi-tops and lo-tops, wedge sneakers, a range of heel heights, runner silhouettes and cup soles,” she said.

Related Stories

With more conservative and mature labels entering the sneaker category (i.e. Jimmy Choo), Davis said the trend has more stamina than it has in the past. After all, Davis said the “luxury snobs” need a high-end sneaker to call their own. She noted designer brand forays into the category have helped sneakers dig deeper, “You have to have something for everyone and all price points, but that’s a good thing because it is helping expand the trend even further.”

Euro Exchange
It’s a great time for luxury footwear brands to kick up their production in Europe. With the Euro losing value, Davis said she has been able to offer buyers better a price point for Fall ’15 because her costs, from raw material to shipping duty, are less.

“I can transfer that savings to the retailer and for me that’s important because price is always a struggle as an independent brand in the luxury category,” she said, noting that she competes with behemoths like Chanel and Jimmy Choo, which manufacture in the same factories as her brand, but get discounts for their large quantities.

Davis said its an uphill battle, but added, “at least it’s not like 2010” when she recalls a period when the Euro exchange rate was 1.7 and 1.8. “I was doing well and then I would have to pay Italy. It was impossible to make a profit.”

It’s the price Davis, a quality fanatic, is willing to pay to ensure that her product is top-notch and can stand up against the bigger brands. “I’d give my right arm to make my shoes cheaper so more people could afford them, and that is why I cut my margin. I take a hit,” Davis said, “[Luxury] is a hard sell, but if I can bring the price down, I can get retailers excited.”

Social Butterfly
Price is just part of the task list designers and brands have to grapple with to excite customers; social media is another. For Davis, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have been mainstays in her social media playbook, and necessary portals to tap into a more fashion-forward audience. Other platforms, like Snapchat, she said are “too fleeting.”

According to Davis, the days of generic Instagram-ed sunset photos are over. “Social media is getting a lot more involved. It is getting to a deeper level. You need to make sure that with each Instagram you give the follower a lot of information,” she said, noting that one Instagram upload from snap to hashtag to tweet can take up to 20 minutes.

“But you have to make sure that all the right people, stores, celebrities and brands are tagged, otherwise it is a waste of time,” Davis added. “You have to make it thoughtful, informative and authentic.”