Taryn Rose returns with new comfort fashion shoe lines

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Two years after selling her original namesake company, Taryn Rose is back in full force. The orthopedist/shoe designer, who made her name crafting fashion-forward designs that are as comfortable as they are pretty, has debuted a luxury line that is available at Neiman Marcus, with new designs rolling out this fall. A less expensive division is featured on the Home Shopping Network. And with new partners the Schottenstein Group, Rose will have a midrange line available at stores including Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Macy’s next year.

Julee Butler, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for women’s shoes at Neiman Marcus, is thrilled to have the designer in-store again with her Haute Footure collection.

“When Taryn called and shared the good news that she was launching her new collection, we didn’t hesitate to begin the collaboration,” Butler says. “Taryn knows our Neiman Marcus customer very well and understands that she has discerning taste and wants a beautiful fashion shoe that is unquestionably comfortable…. The materials and details along with the comfort fit that Taryn put into the collection are really what makes them [the line] special…. She is making a lot of her loyal customers very happy.”

Haute Footure, exclusive to Neiman Marcus, ranges in price from $365 to $1,000 in stores and online. New fall styles will emerge through October.

On the other side of the affordability coin, Rose has been on the Home Shopping Network since May with a line called High Heel Power that includes footwear, handbags, leg wear and skin care for the feet.

"[It’s] the brand I created for women everywhere who multitask, balance a budget while looking good and wanting to take care of themselves,” Rose says. Shoes in the High Heel Power collection run $110 to $150.

Lynne Ronon, the vice president of merchandising for HSN, thinks Rose adds a unique quality to the channel. “Taryn has it all. She’s passionate … and has a tremendous product with a great story that provides a solution for customers,” Ronon says. “With her background as an orthopedic surgeon, she engages our customers and relates to them as women.” The line’s fall collection debuts on the network this month.

So where has Rose been for two years? In 2008, she sold her share of her company to a partner. It proved to be a good move, as the economy was declining.

“In hindsight, it was the best thing, because I sold before everything crashed,” she says. “What this allowed me to do was observe what was going on in the marketplace. Reality is different than it was two years ago.” Americans no longer buy as much as they used to, she says, though they still want quality, so she believes it is essential to deliver her shoes in a greater range of prices than ever before.

Rose has always been quick on her feet. As a young girl, she escaped from Saigon with her family at the end of the Vietnam War. They lost everything. Their survival in the United States depended on hard work and careful planning and she learned that perseverance means success. After graduating from UC Irvine, she attended the USC School of Medicine, where she specialized in orthopedics.

It was in the operating room (where she was renowned for wearing 3-inch Prada heels) that she saw first-hand the damage shoes can inflict on feet. Clearly, Rose realized, there was an open niche in the shoe market: luxe comfort. So, after 13 years of studying and practicing medicine, she decided to take a risky step: she would combine her expert knowledge of feet and her aesthetic sensibilities and become a shoe designer.

“I knew I was in trouble when all of my Ortho journals would still be wrapped in plastic but Vogue and Elle were torn apart,” she says. “I needed to go where my life was telling me to go. I was blessed that I found a way to combine both my knowledge and my passion.”

“I felt I’d rather live with failure than regret,” she says. “Failure you can deal with; regret you can’t change, because it’s too late.”

A garage became her studio and borrowed money her capital as she launched her first line in 1998. The gamble paid off. She soon made a $20,000 sale to a major department store. More successes followed and, in 1999, she moved out of the garage and into a Beverly Hills boutique. In 2000, she expanded to New York, and in 2002 and 2004, respectively, she brought San Jose and Las Vegas into the fold. What had started with $800,000 in sales in 1999 became $8.1 million in 2002. But it’s what happened in 2003, with a few short sentences, that made the biggest difference:

“I remember wearing a pair of Taryn’s shoes a few years ago to the O Magazine anniversary party. I knew I’d be dancing the night away, so I had those on underneath my long skirt. What great shoes you make.” These words were uttered by Oprah Winfrey on her show on Jan. 27, 2003. According to the transcript of that show, Oprah showed off her Taryn Rose kicks for all America to see and — presto! — in one year, Taryn’s line doubled its sales to $16.4 million.

Oprah’s Midas touch launched a craze for the shoes. Stores were swamped with women eager to look good and feel good too. Celebs were also keen to get in on the action. Angelina Jolie wore Rose’s sleek peep-toe “Calexa” during her pregnancy with twins Knox and Vivienne. Blythe Danner, Cate Blanchett, Gwen Stefani and Felicity Huffman became fans. Angela Bassett says she appreciates how “Taryn’s shoes combine her creative flair with the knowledge of how our feet must carry us our entire lives.”

“As a surgeon, she understands empirically how we’ve literally suffered for vanity’s sake, but as one with great personal style, she also knows that we women have a craving for beauty,” Bassett says.

The craving of one lady — a first lady — even got Rose summoned to the White House. She was doing a press tour in Washington, D.C. and received a request to visit Laura Bush. “I arrived and was taken up to her private living room and had a lovely tea,” Rose recalled. "[Mrs. Bush] said she loved my wedges because of all her outdoor events, and she didn’t like sinking into the grass.”

This fall, the Neiman Marcus Haute Footure line offers several styles, including a 4-inch leather wedge called the Evangeline and a lush suede flat called the Belle. Meanwhile, HSN’s High Heel Power mixes funky textures with classic silhouettes. The Electra peep-toe, for instance, mixes a generous platform with festive multi-color glitter, perfect for a night on the town or holiday sparkle.

And for fans of the signature rose that graced some Taryn Rose shoes, no need to worry. Haute Footure features several styles with the embellishment. It has always exemplified Taryn’s confidence, but the flower reflects new meaning now.

“My old rose was more like a cabbage rose — very sweet,” Rose says. “This time I want it a bit edgier, more undone, a bit less uptight and a wilder look. I feel very free right now, and the rose reflects that I want to spread my wings design-wise.”