Comfort Shoe Founder Taryn Rose Talks About the Importance of Wellness in Fashion

Taryn Rose
Brand founder Taryn Rose.
George Chinsee

Taryn Rose knows knows a thing or two about keeping feet feeling and looking good.

The orthopedic surgeon helped pioneer the luxe comfort market in the late 1990s, when she founded her eponymous fashion-comfort shoe line. For years, she applied her medical expertise to creating a collection of upscale women’s footwear that balances fit with fashion.

After spending some time away from the business, Rose returned for the fall ’17 season. Here, she talks about connecting with customers and the key characteristics of a comfort shoe.

Since returning to Taryn Rose as a strategic adviser, how are you communicating your comfort message to consumers?

“From the very beginning, I’ve developed deep, candid and authentic relationships with my customers — both the retailers and the end consumers. I look forward to bringing that back with [new licensee] Global Brands Group through personal appearances at stores around the country and at trade events. People don’t want to be pushed into buying products; they want to feel they’re part of the journey. They want a relationship, and I’m here for that. I’m an active part of The Rose Room, the blog within our e-commerce site, and I’m quite active on our Instagram [channel].”

Taryn Rose slingback A Taryn Rose slingback heel. George Chinsee

With your background as an orthopedic surgeon, what do you see as the essential comfort features in a shoe?

“The body has ‘tensegrity,’ an engineering term for a system of both compression and tension. The foot is like a dome, undergoing an earthquake each time you step. So proper support of all three arches is important. Most brands don’t adequately address this because there’s a sole focus on cushioning and filling in the arches. Cushioning feels good, but it doesn’t address the tension element. Next, the last is the foundation of a good-fitting, comfortable shoe. A giant box of a shoe is not necessarily more comfortable. A last that respects the anatomic asymmetry of  the foot is important. Finally, flexibility in the right direction and location can provide support without impeding natural gait motion.”

In a crowded retail space, what brands do you compete against?

“Every designer is offering fashion sneakers — including us, of course — and their wider acceptance for work and personal occasions creates tough competition. But it also shows that the market is valuing comfort more than ever. I’m in athleisure wear most days, so I love that sporty influence.”

Taryn Rose sneaker Sneaker from the Taryn Rose spring ’18 collection. George Chinsee

How do you define today’s comfort customer?

“It’s not about age but a mindset. I never think about age, not even my own. Our customer has always been a woman with better things to do than think about her feet. She knows what she wants, she’s confident, and she’s the influencer of her group. She doesn’t follow trends as much as she figures out what works for her body and her life. She’s never a fashion victim. She’s curious and likes well-crafted things and a well-curated life full of experiences. Millennials value experiences over consumerism. You can’t live your best life if your feet are killing you.”

Do you have plans to reintroduce a companion men’s line?

“I get messages from men begging me to do a line again because their original shoes are at the end of their lifespan. Comfort is everything to men, but there is no specific timeline to reintroduce [the collection].”