When Ruthie Davis was growing up, people always told her she was too much—she studied too hard, ran too fast, her clothes were too edgy and her shoes were too high. Those nay-sayers, however, only fueled her ambition. Ruthie turned her one-of-a-kind style into a brand name when she launched her über high and super colorful shoe line Ruthie Davis®, which has been coveted by the likes of Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. With designs as bold as her attitude, she has broken the mold for female shoe designers around the world.
Ruthie’s love affair with shoes was born out of her athleticism. From ski boots to sneakers, tennis shoes and cleats, she had footwear to match her many activities. But she wasn’t your typical tomboy, always adding a glamorous twist. “To me, getting dressed for a tennis match was like a black tie event: it was all about coordinating the top, skirt and the little bow in my hair with my sneakers.”
As an undergrad at Bowdoin College, Ruthie studied English Literature and Visual Arts and had an affinity for watercolors. She went on to receive her MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson. After grad school she was hired as a “Cool Hunter” at Reebok, where she reinvented the Reebok Classics. Her success continued at UGG Australia, where Ruthie’s fresh ideas and marketing abilities helped to reposition the iconic sheepskin boot as fashion and started a craze across the country. Then she went on to Tommy Hilfiger, launching a new division, “Tommy Girl Shoes,” that took the brand towards a fresher direction. Ruthie pins her success to “thinking outside of the box, writing my own rules and being brave. I wanted to go beyond what they told me to do.”
To further make her mark as an innovative designer, she launched her own shoe collection in 2006. The line was an instant hit, drawing attention from the press, celebrities and New York Fashion Week. “I started Ruthie Davis® partly because I was frustrated that I couldn’t find what I wanted, that being the bold colors and futurism of my Nike Air Max coupled with a high-fashion shoe.”
Since then, her striking shoes have revolutionized the industry. Referencing modernism, future technology, and 1960s Italian cinema, her line earned an exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut, where she is from. Though her shoes are works of art, Ruthie knows function matters just as much as form. As one of the only female designers making high-end shoes for women, she delivers what real women want. “As a business woman, I want shoes I can wear in the office but are still sexy and cool.”
Though at first she set out to make great shoes, Ruthie now travels the country speaking to diverse female audiences to encourage them to be authentic. “I want women to know they don’t have to compromise their femininity to be successful. There is a stigma that women in business have to look a certain way to be perceived as smart—the woman of the future can dress however she feels her best and still run a business.”
Don’t be a walking trend! As a designer, Ruthie needs to keep an eye on the trends, but she prefers to follow her own signature vision for modern, sexy, functional design. The results are consistently ahead of the pack.
Do the same with your own wardrobe—be stylish on your own terms. Here are some tips on how to create your own style identity:
- Shop your own closet: When you see a trend that you like, instead of running out to buy it, try creating the look with pieces you already have. This way you’re putting your own spin on the trend, while saving money.
- Visit a vintage or thrift store: It’s time consuming to shuffle through the racks of clothes, but if you do, you may find great, one-of-a-kind items. These shops are also terrific for accessorizing—costume jewelry and funky purses.
- Break “the rules”: We all know them: don’t mix patterns, always coordinate accessories, no white after labor day, the list goes on. But why constrain your style to a list of rules? If you want to wear polka dots with plaid, go for it!
- Resist advertising pressure: “Everybody’s wearing it” is not a valid reason to purchase an item. Just because a style is trending, doesn’t mean it works for everyone. If the item looks great on you, and it works with your style identity, go with it. If not, move on!
By Caitlin Moore