FANCY FOOTWORK
IS KISS MY TOES ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING THE TIFFANY OF TOE RINGS?

Byline: Deirdre Mendoza

You don’t need to be a foot fetishist to know that well-adorned tootsies rank high for sensual lure. No surprise, then, that toe rings have been around through the ages, a staple at traditional Indian weddings and a favorite among ancient fashion icons like Cleopatra.
More recently, celebs such as Drew Barrymore, Minnie Driver and Mena Suvari have been seen stepping out to premieres, parties and photo ops bearing gold and pave diamond rings on their toes by newcomer accessories resource Kiss My Toes.
Though it’s not rare to find silver and beaded rings at places like trendy shops on the Venice Beach boardwalk, the upscale turn of Kiss My Toes rings is the product of best friends (and former sorority sisters) Stefanie Blackstock and Jenifer Rouse-Barber. The two bagged their respective day jobs at West Side boutiques (R.K. Shugart and Ron Herman in Brentwood) to launch the line of high-end toe rings crafted in 14-karat yellow and white gold settings last March.
Their decision arrived on the heels of Blackstock’s six-month stint assisting celebrity stylist Philip Bloch. She has since transformed her Hollywood contacts into potential buyers.
Rouse-Barber, who was a broadcast journalism major at Pepperdine University (the partners’ alma mater), made the rounds as an actress for nearly two years before deciding that hustling for auditions was not her true calling.
“We thought about what we could come up with that would be unique after the whole Tarina Tarantino [jeweled barrette] craze and all the popularity in pedicures. So we decided to do diamond toe rings,” said Rouse-Barber, who jokes that her Malibu home currently doubles as Kiss My Toes world headquarters.
The toe rings, wholesale priced between $80 and $240, went into better specialty stores, including R.K. Shugart, Jennifer Kaufman and Fred Segal Melrose, where they posted reorders within six months. Kiss My Toes has also expanded into belly chains and cuffs.
For their second season, fall-holiday 2000, the partners introduced hints of color to the line with flowers set in 14-karat gold bands. The subtle color story includes pink, yellow and blue sapphires and red rubies. Customers can buy sets or repeat themes by snapping up an anklet to go with a ring.
The partners are already developing an inlaid pearl style and will continue to introduce new models every few months.
Gift business accounts for nearly a third of total sales revenues, which, according to plan, should hit $300,000 by year’s end.
Though warmer climes and an obsession with pedicures do allow Angelenos to show off these rings throughout the year, the partners insist this is not just a sun-drenched phenom.
“We’ve gotten calls from Massachusetts, New York and Philadelphia — plenty of cold weather stores,” said Rouse-Barber.