Dr. Taryn Rose in East/West mag
March 20, 2007
|Creating Comfort in Heels|
Fashion and function rarely go hand in hand, but when an orthopedic surgeon takes to designing, possibilities abound.
Dr. Taryn Rose, a Los Angeles resident of Vietnamese descent, revolutionized the footwear industry in 1998 when she introduced a line of luxury shoes that were not only fashionable and feminine, but also surprisingly well-designed and functional.
Inspired by her own aching feet, after hours in three-inch heels, and by the patients she saw—countless women with serious injuries caused by their own high–heels —Rose was determined to make shoes that felt as good as they looked. “It’s a very fine balancing act,” she says. “And it’s a matter of adjusting things by millimeters.”
Pointing to her line’s classic, black wedge with a peep toe, she explains that they went through three versions of the shoe, each time making slight adjustments, to get the perfect balance for the design. “First of all, they’re made so that they fit a real woman’s foot, instead of Barbie’s,” Rose says. “My shoes are not pointed. They tend to be round or square toed. Many of them have an arch built in for support and to redistribute the weight evenly.”
Born in Vietnam, Rose and her family relocated to Arkansas in 1975. She moved to California in 1981 and later earned a medical degree from the University of Southern California. After moving from medicine to fashion in the late 1990s, Rose opened her first boutique in Beverly Hills in 1999. Since, she has added locations in New York, San Jose and Las Vegas. In October 2006, another Taryn Rose storefront opened its doors in Seoul, South Korea.
In 2003, she expanded the business in another way by adding a men’s collection, and she has also moved into handbag design, something she feels is a natural extension for the brand especially with the growing demand from her shoe fans. “People don’t necessarily match anymore, but they like things to coordinate, and they know I would always do things with function,” Rose says.
East West caught up with the foot-friendly designer, just two days after her return from the opening of the South Korea store, to talk about family, feet and the future.
What does an average day at work consist of for you? Or is there such a thing as an average day?
What I love about being an entrepreneur is that every day is different. I just came back from a trip to Seoul to open up the store. There, I gave interviews all day for two days. Then, I flew to Paris to do market research there, so I was walking around Paris. I came back here on Tuesday and went trick-or-treating with my kids. Yesterday I came in and had a marketing meeting where I had to approve of photos for our brochures and ads. I looked at an ad budget to approve of where we are going to run advertisements. Following that, I met with my financial team to get the results, the monthly numbers. And this morning, after parent-teacher conferences, I was on a conference call for a panel I’m going to be at in New York on Monday. It is for the Women’s Leadership Exchange. No two days alike.
You support a lot of charities. Tell us about that.
Breast cancer research is important to us because we get support from so many women that we wanted to support a cause that would affect women. I also contribute to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles because I trained there. They’re very good and I really believe in their mission to treat the children of Los Angeles, no matter what their income is, in the highest standard of care. We also contribute a great deal in New York to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. And then also, besides our monetary contributions, I also allow each of our employees one week off per year for volunteer work.
How do you balance your professional and personal life?
It’s never a balance. It’s very difficult. I call it equilibrium because priorities change from moment to moment. I have a lot of help, and I just have very little time for myself. I guess that’s what gets left out.
Has your ethnic background, the Asian culture, affected your work?
I think the stereotypical work ethic is very true. I have a very strong work ethic, a lot of dedication. I think it’s really helped me through all the tough times. Even now, as glamorous as it is to travel, it’s very exhausting. You need to have the strength and the inner resolve to get through those moments when it’s not so fun.
What are you most proud of so far?
I think to create an entirely new brand that didn’t exist before from nothing. I had very little capital. When I started, I didn’t have major investors. I still remember someone telling me, “Forget it. You’ll never be able to do it because you need $5 million to create a new brand.” And I was like “ I don’t have $5 million.” But I managed to do it against great odds.
How did you overcome those odds?
By doing this in a different way. Because I didn’t have money to advertise, I did a lot of work through P.R. and guerilla marketing. And just being more resourceful. As most entrepreneurs do, I wore many hats when I first started.
What does the future hold for the company? What are you looking forward to most?
To continue to grow, especially internationally. To make Taryn Rose a household name. To become one of the great American brands such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren . . . to be that recognized.
9536 Brighton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
For more locations, visit www.tarynrose.com