More than 14 years ago in Los Angeles, Tiffany Tuttle launched her brand, LD Tuttle.
The studio, located in the city’s burgeoning Arts District, housed the LA native’s footwear collections. From sketching to hand-draping, she was heavily involved in the shoemaking process.
Tuttle — a former professional ballerina — was focused on fit as much as style, and she developed a loyal following among customers who sought Italian craftsmanship coupled with minimalist silhouettes. She joined forces with designers such as Helmut Lang, Peter Pilotto and Creatures of Comfort, and the brand was stocked at big-name retailers like Shopbop, The Dreslyn and even Selfridge’s in London.
But today, Tuttle has announced plans to shutter her business. The designer — who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for Givenchy and Rebecca Taylor — noticed a shift in the industry, which has seen widespread store closures and a rise in direct-to-consumer models amid changing consumer preferences.
“We started 14 years ago, and after a couple of years began to be carried by so many small boutiques across the country. I loved working with these people, but so many of them are out of business now,” Tuttle recalled. “These boutiques [used to] spread the word about our shoes, which in turn supported the larger retailers that we worked with. It was a real challenge for us as retail changed and so many of these small boutiques closed.”
Here, FN catches up with Tuttle, who reflects on the business’ glory days, her decision to shutter and what’s to come.
What was the decision-making process behind shuttering the shoe line?
“It was, of course, a hard decision. LD Tuttle has been my life for the past 14 years. However, I found that as the business changed, I wasn’t enjoying the way it was changing as much as I should have been. It seemed like LD Tuttle in its current form had run its course, and the time had come to stop.”
Why did you choose to move on versus restructure into a direct-to-consumer model?
“Over the past year and a half, we did begin to turn our focus much more to DTC. We had a very good year from 2018 into 2019 with a large increase in our DTC business. At that point, however, I realized that there were so many more changes that needed to be made to truly make it a DTC business. I found that for me, personally, the changes required for the shift to a real DTC business were not want I wanted to do with LD Tuttle. It did not feel like an organic shift for me or for what LD Tuttle had been for so many years.”
What have you learned over the years as a player in the footwear space?
“So many things! As a designer, I am constantly learning, thinking of the next thing I want to work on and never satisfied with where I have come. I like this feeling of forward momentum. I have learned, however, that sometimes I need to stay with something long enough for it to catch on [and] for it to find its place in the market. As an example, the development of more sport-focused footwear is exciting, but for a small company it was difficult because the development costs for that sort of footwear are so much higher.”
What were the designer collaborations you were most proud of?
“I really loved doing all of the collaborations. Anything for the runway was exciting because I got to push the limit. The collaboration closest to my heart is the one I did with VPL. Victoria Bartlett and I had such a close working relationship. We both really pushed each other to do things that we wouldn’t have otherwise done. We each really melded our two perspectives together in the shoes that we made. Working on Helmut Lang for so many years was also really exciting. They had a great team, which enabled us to explore some really cool materials and techniques.”
How can shoe brands avoid falling by the wayside as consumer preferences change and e-commerce flourishes?
“For any footwear business, you always need to be thinking five steps ahead. You may not always want to change with the changing fashion or retail landscape, but it is important to understand what is going on and think of how your brand fits into the wider surroundings. One of the most exciting challenges as a designer is trying to find the ways that changing trends and consumer preferences fit with your brand [and] how you can do something in your way. The same has to be done now from a business perspective in terms of shifting to e-commerce if you want your brand to continue to be successful.”
What are your next steps?
“For now, we are not going forward [with the brand], but who knows? I love what LD Tuttle has stood for all of these years, but right now I am excited to focus on something new. I want a different challenge as a designer.”
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