Between Pop Art and Diabolik: Ruthie Davis

Ruthie Davis’ Spring/Summer 09 footwear collection pays homage to Pop Art and strong heroines à la Eva Kant.

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Ruthie Davis has been obsessed with shoes for as long as she can remember. Her shoe passion started when she was 2 years old and got a pair of red patent leather Mary Janes. Those first shoes sealed her fate and, after earning a BA in English and Visual Arts from Bowdoin College and a Master in Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Babson Graduate School of Business, Davis began her career in footwear at Reebok, then Ugg and Tommy Hilfiger.

In 2006 Davis ventured into her ultimate dream, launching her own brand. Her latest collection is the result of different inspirations: her “Graffiti" pumps in bright colours or in black and white with nut and bolt studded heels are characterised by a Mondrian-like grid; her “Pop” ankle strap sandals with translucent heels and fluo colours are a homage to Pop Art and Diabolik’s heroine Eva Kant, while clean, modern and architectural lines and Frank Gehry’s new building on New York’s West Side Highway are also referenced in the collection.  

Dazed Digital: Do you remember the first pair of shoes you ever bought?
Ruthie Davis: I actually remember going with my mother at the age of 2 to one of the New York City department stores to get my first pair of dress shoes. I tried on a pair of red patent leather Mary Janes and a great love affair began. When the salesman went to take them off, I was having no part of that. The tears started to flow and they let me wear the shoes out of the store. According to my mother, I insisted on wearing them to bed that night.

DD: What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a collection?
RD: I always start each collection with a key theme or feeling that is motivating me. Then, from there, I start to brainstorm ideas based on the marketplace, magazines, museums, places and so on. I then create my storyboards and from there I begin my sketches. The actual sketch process is about 1-2 weeks long - once I do the preliminary creative thinking the actual sketch process flows and is quite fast. The next step is spec’ing out each shoe from a technical and material and colour perspective, then, I’m off to Italy to make the shoes. I have a factory in Bologna and also in the Tuscan Region. They are both artisan factories where the majority of the shoes are made by hand by skilled craftsmen and women. I spend a lot of time actually designing “on the foot” in Italy. I also source all of the leather hardware and components while in Italy and then put it all together. The entire process is about a 4-month process. I feel very proud of the level of quality and fit of my shoes and will keeping on evolving every season as I continue to develop the constructions and designs.

DD: Is there one Ruthie Davis pair of shoes from the Spring/Summer 09 collection that you particularly like for their design, colour or material?
RD: I love the Spring 2009 “Sushi”. It totally represents my brand and look. It is very high - 5 inches - with a double platform that keeps it very comfortable. It is my favourite style, a Mary Jane.  It has my signature sporty rubber strap and comes in great patent leather colours. It also comes with white sporty heels. I ordered the style in three different colours for myself to wear this Spring.

DD: Are your shoes going to be featured on any catwalks at New York Fashion Week and is there one fashion designer you’d like to design shoes for?  
RD: My shoes will be featured in the debut collection of Prabal Gurung (www.prabalgurung.com), who has been the design director at Bill Blass for the past five years. I would love to design the shoes for Narciso Rodriguez.

DD: Are you planning to develop also an accessory line?
RD: Yes, I have plans to expand my brand into other items like bags and maybe even furniture.  However, right now my focus is 100% on shoes as this is my specialty.  I model myself more after a Manolo Blahnik than after a Tory Burch.

DD: You often use bright and vivid colours, even in the details of your Fall/Winter collections: is colour a sort of optimistic trademark?
RD: I am actually all about black, but with hits of colour. That’s my favourite combination, a black shoe with a colour pop on it. And yes, that is a fun, optimistic and sporty aspect that I love, I take a lot of inspiration from sneakerhead trainer colours.

DD: Can you tell us more about the origins of your fascination with Eva Kant in Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik?
RD: I have been obsessed with Danger Diabolik ever since my friend who worked at Paramount Pictures, who released the film in this country, turned me on to it. First he turned me onto the comic books. Anyway, at first there were no copies of the movie in America. Even though he was an employee at Paramount they didn’t have any copies. So, he hooked me up with a source in the UK where I got a first edition original copy before it was available here. The bright colours used in the film totally inspired me, in fact I have an original Italian Danger Diabolik movie poster in my office right above my desk. It is huge and it has all of these vivid colours, it’s like my Bible.

My muse is actually Diabolik’s partner, Eva Kant. In the Mario Bava movie based on the comic made in 1968, actress Marissa Mell plays Eva. She is a totally Mod, chic and hip 60s chick and I always picture my shoes on her. I also love all of the James Bond girls. I like women on the go as my shoes are not meant to be like works of art that you never wear. They are for heroines who are on the move yet need to look totally hot. I think the Mario Bava film is beyond fashionable, it is in every way gorgeous, sexy, tasteful, innovative and appealing on so many levels. I am obsessed with the gold punch-out bikini Eva wears in the film and designed a pump inspired by it that featured grommets and a wedge made out of titanium. I also have designed numerous shoes directly inspired by the movie, Eva’s outfits and her overall look. I would die to design the shoes for a remake.

DD: A while back you did a post on your blog about “Red Carpet” shoes being boring, why do you think stars often favour bland silver or gold strappy sandals at such events?
RD: I have no idea but I have been told that it’s because on the “Red Carpet” it’s all about the dress. I’m really surprised to be honest as I thought fashion right now was all about the shoes. I am really surprised someone doesn’t break the mould and wear an amazing pair of platforms and a sleek and simple black fitted dress. I mean why don’t we ever see the season’s “it” shoes on the Red Carpet? It just makes no sense to me.
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