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Although LA is chock-full of brilliant designers, there are a handful of hometown heroes (Rodarte, Band of Outsiders, Creatures of the Wind, Rebecca Minkoff) who have managed to reach international success as well. One of said talents is Tiffany Tuttle of LD Tuttle, an edgy footwear label founded in 2006.
Catching the attention of tons of celebrities, as well as well-regarded retailers like The Dreslyn and cult-favorite brands like Helmut Lang, there's no limit to what Tuttle can do with her signature minimalist shoes. Here, the designer walks us through her DTLA studio while revealing the impressive story behind her career, why she loves working here, and where she shops, eats, and plays.
When did you first fall in love with footwear?
My love of footwear comes from having been a ballet dancer. I spent my childhood and teenage years obsessed with feet as all dancers are. As a dancer, they are a central part of your aesthetic. I think feet and legs are beautiful and this extends to the shoes that are on your feet. Without the right shoes, you don't look confident or comfortable. Shoes are such an integral part of a person's movement and silhouette. I was always very aware of this because of the time that I spent dancing.
What were you doing before LD Tuttle?
I was with a ballet company for a few years and then I stopped and went to college and studied European History. It seems far from where I am now but it continues to influence what I do as a designer. I then studied fashion design at FIT and worked for Givenchy in Paris briefly and then Rebecca Taylor in New York. While I was there, I was able to work on some runway shoes that she was doing. It was then that I decided to leave clothing and focus on footwear. I attended a shoe school in Milan. It was amazing; we learned pattern making, construction, all there is to know about leather. Afterwards, I traveled around Italy meeting with factories and trying to figure out production for the collection that I wanted to start.
What inspired you to launch your own shoe line?
While I was learning about footwear in Italy, I really felt there was something missing out there in shoes. I wanted to create shoes that with a utilitarian, minimal aesthetic that were also comfortable, something that you could wear every day.
What was LD Tuttle's claim to fame?
We really built our name by making signature boots that no one could find and I felt were missing in the market—the shaper—our flat over the knee boot, the lost - a heeled knee high boot, and the strike - our fold down moto boot. We have also become known for our convertible designs over the years—shoes that can be worn multiple ways, boots that unzip and become mules etc.
What are some of the advantages of being a footwear designer in LA?
Los Angeles is a very special place to work as a designer because it has a sense of space, both mental and physical that you don't find in other places. I travel a lot but whenever I come back I find that I can breathe and think in a different way. It really is the easiest place for me to design, to feel like I can work with my own ideas and try to move them forward. I grew up in LA but I still find it a very mysterious place. You have the sense that you will always discover something new. The city is a place of contrasts—the most obvious being the beauty of the surrounding nature with the intensely urban areas.
Describe your design process. Do you listen to a particular song, or have any design rituals?
I usually have something that listen to somewhat obsessively during a season. I don't plan it that way but it ends up happening. Last season it was Phillip Glass' "Metamorphosis". Mostly my design process consists of leather, scissors and lots of tape and staples. I start by sketching rough ideas and then quickly move to draping the concepts on the last or on my foot. Sometimes I will take existing shoes and cut or add until they are completely unrecognizable. I will end up with a very fragile "shoe" prototype that I send to the pattern maker at the factory.
What is the latest person, place, or thing that inspired you to design a shoe style?
The spring 2015 collection which is out now was inspired by Balanchine's leotard ballets and in particular the New York City Ballet dancer Wendy Whelan who just left NYCB last year. The minimal classicism of the ballets along with the sharp athleticism of Wendy Whelan shaped the way that I approached the shoes. I think that the WATCH, an unlined sandal on a running sole inspired bottom particularly encapsulates this. The sandal has clean curving lines that hug the foot in a very modern way but the running sole gives it an expected sporty twist.
Who would you love seeing wearing LD Tuttle?
I would love to see Wendy Whelan, the dancer I mentioned above, wearing LD Tuttle. Otherwise, it just makes me happy to see people on the street wearing it. I love seeing random strangers wearing my shoes. I design them to be worn every day, to be a key element in what someone puts on in the morning, so to see people doing that never stops being exciting.
What are your favorite places to shop, eat, and play in LA?
Our studio is downtown in the Arts District so I love all of the changes that have been going on there lately. I eat at Eat, Drink Americano, Zinc, Urban Radish, and Bestia if I want an amazing dinner. For shopping, one of my favorite stores in LA is still Scout. They have amazing vintage—and particularly right now a lot of 90s stuff, which is really barely vintage, but it is very well curated. I also make the rounds at Creatures of Comfort, Mohawk General Store and Larchmont Beauty Supply for beauty products.
I have two kids so a lot of my weekends are focused on child friendly activities like running around at the La Brea Tar Pits. We also love the desert and try to go out there as much as possible. We go to Palm Springs and then drive and explore the areas around it. A few months ago we went down past the Salton Sea to the Anza Borrego desert which is stunning.
What's next for LD Tuttle? Any fun collabs or projects?
This spring we launched our first sneaker collection with a selection of styles on running soles that have had a strong reaction. We also just did a fun collaboration with the Dreslyn in which I styled a spring shoot for them using our shoes. And our 10-year anniversary is next year so we are working on a project for that!