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Before she was an in-demand shoe designer, Tiffany Tuttle was a professional ballerina. Born and raised in LA, she moved to NYC to pursue an interest in fashion and attended FIT, put in time at Givenchy and Rebecca Taylor, then traveled to Milan to pick up additional skills at the Ars Arpel School, world-renowned for its coursework in footwear design. In 2005, Tuttle took her experience and turned it into her own line, LD Tuttle.
The first store to pick up the brand was Creatures of Comfort and it has since expanded nationwide and internationally to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Europe. Now in its seventh year, Tuttle is again collaborating on collections for Helmut Lang and VPL, which made their debut at NYFW this week. We stopped by her studio in Downtown LA's Arts District to see the designer in action.—Stephanie Quadri
What made you want to start your business in LA, a city not necessarily known for its shoe production?
"Well, I'm from LA and I when I decided to start my own company, the time seemed right so I came back here to do it. Logistically it didn't make the most sense [ed. note: the factories Tuttle uses for production are in Italy], but there are things I really like about being here. I find it more inspiring in certain ways. You have more creative mental space to think. There's a sense of mystery to LA aesthetically that I really love."
How did you choose Downtown for your studio space?
"I started working out of my apartment but my friend found this space and I loved it. We're so happy here. We've been down here for two years now and the area has changed a lot. There are new restaurants, bars and cafes that you can walk to as well as lots of other designers in the area. The building is often used for shooting TV shows and movies, so that's fun. My best sightings so far are Al Pacino and Christopher Walken."
What are your neighborhood go-tos?
"Daily Dose Cafe for sandwiches, Bread Lounge, T.O.T. in Little Tokyo (we order take out from them a lot) and Hop Louie in Chinatown for beers."
Where do you like to shop?
"I love Scout in Hollywood. It has the best vintage finds. The owner Joey has the most amazing eyes and it's not crazy expensive. New High (M)art in Los Feliz is a great place for gifts. The owners travel around and find things all over the world, from surplus clothing to Maison Margiela."
Lead us through your design process.
"One of things I really love about designing is the process. I don't just do sketches, I also hand-drape the shoes here in the studio. I cut apart old shoes or use lasts to make an upper. My shoes tend to be clean; it's all about how the leather drapes. I send those prototypes to the factory and spend a lot of time working with the pattern maker in Italy. The heels are all carved by hand. Italy has that artisanal tradition that you don't find in other places."
What inspires your collections?
"Mostly art and books that I read. Spring 2013 is inspired by sculptor Alberto Giacometti and the book Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. The functionality of the shoes is very important to me, though. They are for everyday use. To me, the interaction between the wearer and the shoe is very important so a lot of the leathers are natural and untreated so as you wear them they develop their own personality."
Shop LD Tuttle at Creatures of Comfort, Fred Segal, and Guild in Los Angeles. LD Tuttle for VPL will be available at Saks and Shopbop; LD Tuttle for Helmut Lang will be available at Helmut Lang stores.
· LD Tuttle [Official Site]