LOS ANGELES — Orthopedic surgeon-turned-shoe designer Taryn Rose, who left her namesake company in 2008, is making a comeback fusing fashion and technology. Rose’s new e-commerce site, Dresr, also will be the first retail platform for her latest shoe brand, Enrico Cuini for Dresr.
The luxury nine-piece collection, featuring stilettos, sandals and sneakers with patented wing-shaped insole technology, made its Web debut Wednesday via a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the custom molds needed to make the shoes in a range of sizes.
But this isn’t your typical Kickstarter pipe dream. For one, Rose has proven herself an astute businesswoman: She resigned as president of her company in 2008, after building it into a $40 million international brand over 20 years, but kept a minority stake. The brand was later sold to Schottenstein Stores in 2010, then Authentic Brands in 2013. She then “unleashed her inner geek” and immersed herself in the tech world in order to create Dresr, which she calls “a luxury brand for the digital age.”
Rose, who is based in Los Angeles but now splits her time between there and Italy, said, “To me, a luxury shopping experience is a combination of exceptional service and products. Who can help answer the question ‘What do I wear?’ that’s not really being answered online these days. At Neiman Marcus, for example, you have someone great to help you who can sell you great product. So, I asked myself, ‘If Sammy Marcus were alive today, what would he do?’ ”
Rose also added the tech twist that’s vital to retailing today: a universal shopping cart. The one-click cart, into which customers can place product from a variety of e-commerce sites and check out with one click, has been, so far, elusive. Whether Dresr can bring it to market first and best remains to be seen. But Rose has proven herself in the shoe category and aims to do so again. The new line, designed by Cuini, who also made the first sketches for the Taryn Rose collection in 1997, features the comfortable insole (also invented by Cuini) with a sexy, stiletto silhouette.
“When we teamed up, I thought, if we are going to be a true cutting-edge digital brand, we should use Kickstarter, which was a tool I didn’t have in 1997,” said Rose. “First, it’s a great way to get capital. The shoes are very expensive because everything is custom-made in Italy. Second, you can go directly to consumers and understand the market and data. And, third, it’s a way to start generating the following and buzz even before the retail launch. When we go to brick-and-mortar market and meet retailers, we can provide them with hard data.”
The platform also benefits consumers, who have the chance to be ground-floor investors in the company. During the 37-day campaign, consumers will have the chance to pre-order shoes at half the $600 to $900 retail cost. “I’ve been asked if, for a luxury brand, whether crowdfunding is the right thing to do. [But] the new luxury consumer is tech-savvy. It’s not about snob appeal anymore; it’s about delivering the most cutting-edge product.”
“Great digital brands like Warby Parker or Bonobos started online and eventually made an offline presence. So, I felt that I should start a digital brand immediately with an offline presence because people live in both worlds, and, with luxury product, they want [the] opportunity to touch it if they want to. Using my relationships with retailers was an opportunity to have consumers experience a digital brand in a very tangible way from the start,” said Rose.
While many digital brands offer the value proposition of cutting out the middle man, Rose thinks that can be dangerous. “Eventually, you don’t have anywhere to go, and you need enough margins to grow the company. We embrace the middle man because we feel that well-known retailers such as Neiman’s, Bloomingdale’s and Saks offer consumers a fantastic buying experience. I’m grateful for their experience and their brand; I certainly don’t want to cut them out. I wanted to develop a wholesale program in conjunction with direct-to-consumer e-commerce.”
Down the line, Rose sees expanding into the accessories market with product that can enhance wearables, such as the Apple Watch. Said Rose, “I have a feeling that’s going to wipe out the competition, and I want to be right there with them.”