INTERVIEW: Dana Davis, Revolutionary Footwear Designer
Mar 17, 2011 - by Amanda Gabriele
Dana Davis was having trouble finding a shoe to suit her needs. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 7, she struggled with foot ailments related to the illness, forcing her to quit her teaching job, which required her to be on foot all day, after eight corrective surgeries. Not only was she fighting to find the types of shoes her doctors recommended, she was on a mission to find a sexy, aesthetically-pleasing design. That's when she launched her business, a revolutionary footwear collection that melds luxury styling with invisible comfort technology. I got a chance to chat with Dana at her autumn/winter 2011 preview about developing the line, what inspires her and how women feel walking in her shoes.
You started your line because of personal health concerns and your need for comfortable, yet fashion-forward shoes. Were you having trouble finding health related-shoes or was it more a need for aesthetic fulfillment? It was a combination of both. I couldnt find heath-oriented shoes built with the philosophy taught by my doctors. Too much cushioning is bad for the foot, so I could not find a rigid sole with strategic cushioning. There are some wonderful brands and great pioneers out there, but I personally needed what my doctors were telling me to buy. And I couldnt find shoes as fashion-forward as I wanted. There were no heels, nothing that looked stylish. So it was a combination of finding something really correct for me health-wise that also appealed to me aesthetically.
You consult with several medical professionals when designing a collection. What is it like to have a greatly scientific opinion on your designs? At first it was a big push on the orthotic aspect of the shoes, and were constantly changing it because were finding out more and more. We engineer the entire shoe, so with each time, everybody weighs in and consults. One persons opinion can be jaded, so when you have a group of people all putting their heads together, you get what works for most people. One consensus is even young women who dont have foot problems should be wearing shoes that are better for them. We want to prevent because most women develop foot problems because of the shoes they wear early on.
Was the initial design difficult to come up with after consulting all of these professionals with so many opinions flying around? It was very difficult. When I look back to our initial prototypes, Im shocked because theyre not so pretty. You grow as you learn in any business, but I think my taste is also growing and maturing. It has been really fun because Ive learned what I really like, and its nice to see other women who want that feeling.
What inspires you when designing? Initially, its always about the form and function, which is always our underlying theme. But we also look at runway. For fall, you notice pant legs are wider and skirts are longer, but jackets are more tailored. Fashion is getting this Great Gatsby feeling, style for a very strong woman that is feminine, not so much edgy. That is what we are doing for fall, a strong shoe thats still girlie but not too frilly. Inspiration comes along every day. I love being in New York because you see all these amazing women and how they dress.
Your great uncle Frank Levine is credited for creating the mule. Has your familys history in the footwear industry influenced you as a designer? I actually didnt know much about his role in the footwear industry until a few months after I started my company, so I wasnt really influenced by my family history as far as that story goes. But my mother has fantastic taste. So if anything, because of her style, Ive been fortunate to be around so many shoes and have those memories.
Have you seen an improvement in the way you feel after wearing these shoes? What have other women said? Absolutely. Once we get women to try them on and buy them, they come back and buy a second or third pair. Women get so excited because they thought they could never walk in heels again, and now they can and feel very sexy. Its great to see women stand really tall and confident in that moment.
You can read more about Dana Davis and view the collections on her website.