10 Questions for Taryn Rose

When Taryn Rose resigned from her namesake company two years ago, she knew it was just a matter of time before she’d be back.

For fall ’11, the doctor-turned-footwear-entrepreneur is once again putting her creative stamp on a collection of stylish comfort looks under her eponymous label. The brand, now owned by New York-based Schottenstein Stores Corp.’s Luxury Group, is one of three new launches for Rose this year. She’s also debuted High Heel Power, an HSN exclusive targeting mainstream customers, and Haute Footure (above), a high-end line set to bow this month in Neiman Marcus.

Rose, who helped pioneer the luxe comfort market in the late 1990s, said she’s confident retailers will take a chance on her labels. “I’m a proven entity, and these days, customers want added value.”

The core Taryn Rose line, retailing from $95 to $495, could account for 70 percent of sales, Rose said. High Heel Power, at $95 to $129, and Haute Footure, at $350 to $1,200, will round out the business, with Schottenstein partnering with Rose on sourcing and distribution. While fashion trends are always changing, Rose said there remains one constant in her approach to her collections: comfort.

Here, Rose notes the changes in the luxe comfort market over the past decade and the challenges of balancing three labels.

1. What’s the biggest change in the high-end comfort market since you launched your first collection?
There are definitely more designers in this niche than when I started in 1998. That’s a good thing because it helps more consumers become aware of the category.

2. What’s the main challenge in creating products for three distinct markets?
The time that it takes to juggle all three. But my reward is that I get to spread my creative wings and think of the diverse needs of the consumers in [each] market. And it’s fun because there are things I would do in one collection that I couldn’t do in another. There are lots of brands [that] are both mainstream and high-end — Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors all do it really well. I think I can [succeed] in various markets as long as the comfort is consistent, with the styles and prices specifically suited to [the lines’] demographics.

3. You’ve always been the face behind the Taryn Rose brand. Why is connecting with your consumers so important?
I’m the conduit that passes information both ways. For consumers, I spread the message of new technology and trends. From consumers, I gather information about their needs. That information is incorporated into my design work.

4. Do you expect crossover customers between the brands?
There will be [some] because everyone wants more options now. As a consumer, I prefer lots of choices in price and design. But the one thing everyone consistently wants is comfort.

5. Celebrities are powerful ambassadors of fashion. Will they be important to your brands?
[They’re] always important, but the degree to which they are varies. In my high-end Haute Footure line, it’s less important because those customers are celebrities in their own fields and circles. They are the alpha women. For Taryn Rose, it’s important to have celebrities because they can spread the message faster. Like it or not, the press usually prefers to have a celebrity angle when writing stories. For High Heel Power, we actually study what the celebrities are wearing because this [HSN] demographic really wants what the celebs are wearing interpreted for their lifestyle.

6. Is there a typical Taryn Rose customer?
I’ve met customers from all walks of life. Their [common] trait is they all have high self-esteem. It has nothing to do with income or age. They want to treat their bodies right and feel good in general.

7. Many well-known designers sell on TV. Is it getting too crowded?
I [don’t feel] I will get lost in the crowd because of my unique story as a surgeon-turned-shoe-designer. There’s no one else out there with the same credentials.

8. Who do you consider your competition in the increasingly crowded luxe market?
No one and everyone. Comfort is such a subjective feeling that, on the one hand, every shoe out there is potentially a competitor, but [alternatively] if you’re a customer who loves the way I design, there’s nothing else out there that will replace it.

9. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your first business?
First, stay connected to your customers. They were the first to signal me there was a recession coming down the pike. I noticed they were buying two pairs instead of five. Next, spend marketing dollars in a very targeted way and make sure you understand the goals of each campaign. Being a surgeon is part of who I am, and it will always be an integral part of marketing. Lastly, build relationships with your retailers. You need to work together to get through the tough times.

10. What are the most essential comfort features in a shoe?
Thoughtfulness. It takes a lot of thought and balance to create a comfortable shoe that a woman can feel feminine in. Luckily, I enjoy thinking about these things all the time.

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