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Taryn Rose Cuts a New Path With Gemesis

Almost 10 years after leaping from orthopedics to footwear design, Taryn Rose compares her feverish pace with that of a surgeon.

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LOS ANGELES — Almost 10 years after leaping from orthopedics to footwear design, Taryn Rose compares her feverish pace with that of a surgeon.

Rose, a practicing physician for five years after getting her medical degree from the University of Southern California, discovered cultured diamond producer Gemesis Corp. in March and is introducing a jewelry line using the man-made stones this month. Rose’s debut eco-conscious collection of shoes and bags — called Taryn Rose Verde — will hit stores from December to January, only about eight months since she considered going green.

“Being a surgeon, you are used to working under pressure,” she said. “My feeling is that a successful business these days needs to move fast.”

Rose, who made her name creating functional shoes that sit in luxury departments next to Jimmy Choo, Stuart Weitzman and Manolo Blahnik, enters new categories to offer practical solutions for busy women. She described the Taryn Rose limited edition jewelry pieces, priced at $5,000 to $25,000, as affordable alternatives to most fine jewelry brands and a way to avoid the social and environmental concerns spawned by natural diamonds.

“We probably didn’t need Taryn Rose to be a jeweler, except I felt that, with this project, I was the perfect person to combine the craftsmanship and design with technology to give women a lot more for their money,” Rose said.

For most of the eight to 10 jewelry designs, production will be limited to 100 pieces, although there are a few styles that net just one or two pieces, including $10,000 yellow diamond hoop earrings that Rose recently sold to a private buyer. Many rings, earrings and pendants are centered on rose and dome themes, and contain yellow diamonds and stones up to two carats. Rose intends to sell the jewelry at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as her four signature shops.

“Taryn really is the first person from the fashion industry to really attach her name to something like this,” said Stephen Lux, chief executive officer and president of Gemesis, referring to the company’s cultured diamonds certified by the Gemological Institute of America. “She is a proven risk taker with strong success.”

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Taryn Rose’s risk in 2006 was unveiling handbags for fall. The brand has moved forward this year with a toned-down collection concentrating on leathers and stitching, and has expanded to exotic skins — crocodile and alligator — and to five eco-conscious styles. Clutches average $750 and totes $925 to $975; the largest Nile crocodile bags are $9,900. The Bloomingdale’s flagship in Manhattan carries the line.

“Listening to feedback, our customers definitely said, ‘I want something that is more subtle,'” Rose said. “There are so many great bags out there with a lot of hardware that it is nice to give another option.”

The recyclable footwear, available in five sporty silhouettes and costing around $395 retail, has soles made from vegetable oil, rather than petroleum. Leather uppers are tanned with vegetable dyes and no heavy metals, and water-soluble glues are used throughout the shoes. The Taryn Rose Verde bags are also vegetable-tanned and are lined with organic linens.

“I don’t think consumers necessarily want or need to pay more for being eco-conscious,” Rose said. “I didn’t switch completely over to an eco-friendly collection because it is about reminding the consumer of the spirit of being green, but not forcing them to do it. People want to be mindful and if they like the product, they will buy it. It is just another benefit.”

To help her company grow, Rose brought in investment partners last year whom she said are not involved in “day-to-day business.” She declined to disclose their names or the extent of the cash infusion. Rose is the ceo and maintains majority ownership of Culver City, Calif.-based Taryn Rose, which generated $20 million in revenues in 2005, increased to $30 million in 2006 and is on track to hit $40 million this year.

In five years, Rose envisions footwear — both the core Taryn Rose line and less expensive Taryn by Taryn Rose line — to continue to constitute the largest portion of her sales. However, she estimated that men’s goods may be as much as 25 percent of the total and handbags as much as 30 percent. In addition, she is considering launching a foot care line and an apparel line focusing on temperature-regulating clothing.

Next year, Rose, who fled Vietnam at age eight, will have spent a decade in the fashion business — and she’s not about to get out yet.

“I have never been close to selling completely,” Rose said. “It is like a marriage. If you meet the right person, it is the best thing you can do in the world. But if you are married to the wrong person, you don’t want to have to go through the divorce.”

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