NEW YORK — Ruthie Davis is building a bigger following in the footwear world.
The designer’s 6-year-old company, which currently has a signature line and a fashion sneaker range (now in its second season), is launching three new collections for fall — flats, boots and evening shoes.
The brand also bowed its first pre-season offering, incorporating higher-end materials across the board; expanded its handbag selection; grew its wholesale reach; and is completing a website and e-commerce overhaul aimed at improving interaction with consumers.
According to Davis, the company is in a good place to tackle fresh goals. Overall sales increased 119 percent between spring ’11 and spring ’12.
“Going into fall, I’m doing things I’ve never done before,” Davis said. “We’re at a fine-tuning point where we want to continue to solidify our place [in the luxury market], as well as open new doors.”
To start, a six-style evening shoe collection, set to hit stores in early August, will carry price points of up to $1,700 and include luxe details such as custom “aurora borealis” Swarovski crystals and exotics including stingray and snake. Davis will again have a presence at New York Fashion Week this month, partnering for the fourth time with Dennis Basso on shoes for the designer’s runway show.
The company also made another move to extend its presence this season by launching its first pre-fall collection of 20 styles.
“[To be] a global luxury accessory brand means we have to be on the designer fashion calendar,” said Davis, adding that 52 percent of her business is in the U.S., with other strong markets in the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Italy and Russia.
On the flip side, the label, which previously had an average price point of $900, has also added more moderate prices with its seven-style flats collection, including a foldable entry-level shoe that retails for $400.
The new initiatives are part of a broader strategy to garner more wholesale customers. Davis said she doubled her accounts between 2010 and 2011.
“[Ruthie Davis shoes] are very exciting, and customers really respond to the color,” said Emilie Yarid, owner of the five-door Yarid’s chain in Virginia, West Virginia and Colorado.
Yarid said the designer’s styles are on the higher side of her stores’ price points, but she was drawn to the craftmanship. “When [Ruthie] showed us the shoes, she took us through the whole process of how they are handmade in Italy,” Yarid said.
Based in New York, Davis keeps all of production and most of her design in Italy, and she plans to continue there. “If you want to be in the luxury market, you absolutely have to be made in Italy,” the designer said, adding that production is her biggest challenge when it comes to competing in the high-end market because it requires travel overseas at least seven times a year.