Meers Aims to Boost Design at Taryn Rose

LOS ANGELES — New Taryn Rose CEO and minority stakeholder Bob Meers is overhauling the 10-year-old company with a number of new initiatives to increase the market reach and fashion appeal of its products.

During a recent interview at the company’s headquarters here, the former Reebok executive, who took over the top role at the company in November, said his main — and perhaps most pressing — objective is to increase the design appeal of the company’s products, and to look for new ways to deliver fashion in a comfort package.

According to Meers, the brand stumbled in recent years by not staying on top of fashion trends and by relying too much on comfort as the main selling feature of its products.

“[Founder] Taryn Rose had a wonderful idea in 1998,” he said. “What [the company] failed to do is to keep comfort technology relevant to today’s customer. Comfort for us must be a given. Style will be the challenge.”

Meers — along with his wife and managing partner, Miriam Kelly, who is responsible for the fashion direction of the company — is working with the company’s Italian sourcing partners and designers to expand on the idea of fashion beyond sky-high, sexy heels. While Kelly said she’s still in the early stages of rethinking the company’s future product look, which won’t be fully realized until 2010, one thing is certain — it won’t focus solely on heel height.

“Part of that reimagining of the company will define what exactly fashion is,” said Kelly. “It’s not always 90-millimeter heels.”

Meers was reluctant to define the company’s target customer because his hope is that its new styling will appeal to a wide range of women. Though he added that, in the most general terms, the company would pursue baby boomer consumers.

The company’s four retail stores will also soon get a makeover, and Meers said he’s searching for a head of retail. Once that executive is in place, he added, the company will revamp its existing stores with the aim of expanding its retail base, but it is too soon to say when and where these outlets will debut. “We’ve got to fix the stores we already have first,” he said. “I don’t want to expand my problem, I want to fix my opportunity. I want to make sure we are operating as efficiently as we can.”

While Meers said he is happy with the label’s department store account base, he hopes to substantially increase the company’s business with independent footwear retailers. Also, the company will be meeting with international distributors throughout 2009 in hopes of signing global partners for a 2010 launch. “Many of the international distributors I’ve worked with in the past have already expressed an interest,” he said.

Meers acknowledged that today’s economic environment will certainly complicate his plans for the company, though he remained confident that the right product will still connect with high-end shoppers. “I wish the economy were better,” he said. “I make no bones about that. But high-end women’s shoes are a constant opportunity.”

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