Surgeon's shoe designs fashionable, healthy
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
Taryn Rose could not resist wearing 3-inch heels throughout her 14-hour workdays. No matter how often her brain objected and her feet ached, the avid fashionista just couldn't bring herself to wear clogs or Crocs like so many other surgeons.
Yes, stiletto-loving Rose was an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, she often performed surgery on the feet of women suffering from the pain and deformities caused by years of teetering on high heels.
One day, Rose was following an attending surgeon on his rounds as he told a post-surgical patient she would have to wear tennis shoes for the rest of her life. The patient became upset, and while trying to console her, Rose had an idea.
After 13 years of medical studies at the University of Southern California, in 1998 Rose decided to use her knowledge of anatomy for another purpose: to design shoes that are fashionable and healthy.
"I saw so many women in the marketplace who were harming their feet with the culprit — ill-fitting shoes — and no one was doing anything about it," Rose said in a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles. "We all know we should wear shoes that won't harm our feet, but if they don't look good, we're not going to wear them. I thought that with my special role as an orthopedic surgeon, I could change the way we think about shoes."
It was a courageous move for the refugee from Vietnam who came to America in 1975. It's also an all-consuming business for the mother of three: 6-year-old Anneka, 2-year-old Milo and 11-month-old Peter. "I have little time for myself but it means I get very efficient," Rose said.
During her residency, Rose had access to Nike laboratories, where she studied diabetic foot problems. "We set out to make more comfortable shoes for diabetics, using Poron (a high-density urethane foam developed by NASA) as a shock absorber but introducing it into fashionable shoes. I took my understanding of disease into the fashion world."
She started Taryn Rose International in her garage. A few other women surgeons, desperately seeking the perfect shoe, offered her loans to help her get started. Eight years later, she has flagship stores in New York; Beverly Hills and San Jose, Calif., and Las Vegas. In Honolulu, her shoes are carried at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, The Sandal Tree and The Walking Co.
PRETTY BUT PRACTICAL
Rose designed an asymmetrical foot bed that gives the toes wiggle room. She also uses Poron as a full-length cushion. Her design philosophy is simple: "I want women to feel well-dressed, with a sense of well-being," Rose said. "I wanted to create a line for the alpha woman, the woman of substance, who wants to look good but is not into trends."
Many prominent women have chosen her shoes, including Felicity Huffman and Ashley Judd; the latter wore them on the red carpet at the Oscars while recovering from a broken ankle. Gwen Stefani bought 11 pairs after her baby was born.
Taryn Rose shoes are hand- made in Italy, each requiring one to three hours of hand stitching. The shoes typically cost around $400.
They're especially popular among women who travel a great deal. Piia Aarma, owner of Pineapple Tweed PR and Marketing Communications, swears by hers. "I was going on vacation to Italy just before I was due to have knee surgery. I needed the best possible shoes for safety and comfort so I wouldn't exacerbate my knee problem," even on the cobblestones of Venice, Aarma said. "These sandals have really good support and a nonslick tread, and they were just perfect."
THIS JUST IN
In response to numerous pleas, Rose will launch a new, less-expensive line of shoes called Taryn, retailing for about $250, this fall. Made in China of materials from Italy, the shoes will be available only at www.zappos .com until next spring, when they will arrive in stores.
Taryn Rose handbags also debut this fall, and they are expected in the Islands early next year. The same practicality paired with the pretty factor will be evident. "I started with a bright pink lining because you can find things better," Rose said. "There are lots of pockets."
What would we find if we peeked inside Rose's personal handbag? "A pair of sunglasses. I love them and buy them wherever I go. A Stila lip gloss, Blackberry, wallet, Sony digital camera to capture the funny things my kids are doing — recommended for all moms. Oh, and the Legos that somehow get dropped into my bag."
Having recently taken up golf, Rose said she couldn't find golf shoes that fit. "I'd love to do a golf line," she said. Asked if she might create a line of clothing, Rose said "I think my background and ideas can serve women well from head to toe. It's a great time to be a woman. I love it. I enjoy seeing other women succeed, and I hope I can play a part."
Reach Paula Rath at firstname.lastname@example.org.