INTERVIEW: TIFFANY TUTTLE OF LD TUTTLE

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Tiffany Tuttle attended FIT, worked for Givenchy and Rebecca Taylor, and studied footwear design in Milan before launching her own line of shoes – LD Tuttle – in 2005. We caught up with the designer, and former ballerina, recently to discuss how the contrasting elements of her west coast environment inspire her work, her favorite dance movies and ballets, and what we can expect form the future of LD Tuttle.

Words by Conor Riley.

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LD Tuttle Glance heel in mercury.

OAK: You travel between Los Angeles and Northern Italy, which each boast diverse, and beautiful geographies. What kind of inspiration do you draw from these locations, and in general how does your environment inform your design?
Tiffany Tuttle: Los Angeles has always been a large influence on my design. I love the hidden elements of the city, the way that you are always finding an amazing new building that you had never seen before. It is a city of high contrast: the desert versus the ocean, the mountains versus the cement of downtown, natural beauty versus sprawl. This interplay of contrasts is a big part of my work. Northern Italy does not have such a direct inspiration on my designs except that it is one of the best places you could have to travel for work. When I am at the factory, I am working all day and often late into the night but I am eating amazing food and surrounded by Italian people who I love.

OAK: You’ve undoubtedly been asked about how studying and performing ballet has influenced your designs a countless number of times, but what are you favorite ballets, and what about them do you find inspiring? Do you still find time to dance, or at least attend performances?
TT: My favorite ballets are Agon and Giselle. Agon is my favorite Balanchine ballet and I have seen it performed numerous times by my favorite dancer, Wendy Whelan. The lines and shapes of the ballet are extraordinary. The dancers are a true extension of the music. It is all done in a sort of perfectly off-balance way. I am drawn to things that surprise me because they step away from the expected and move in a different direction. I try to incorporate this feeling into my shoe designs – a heel shape that moves in an unexpected way, a boot shaft that drapes down with the shape of the wearer’s leg. Giselle is one of my favorites because I have danced in it many times and I just love the story and the music. It is a very romantic, gothic tale about the girl who dances herself to death (a favorite ballet concept – like The Red Shoes). I love stories of obsession. I do not dance anymore at all. I travel too much to do anything very consistently unfortunately and I think it would be hard to do something like that half-way. I do try to go see dance performances when I can– especially when traveling– because LA does not have that much organized ballet.

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LD Tuttle Totem wedge in black.

OAK: From a professional perspective, what movie is the most accurate behind-the-scenes look at the ballet? The Company, Center Stage, Black Swan or Suspiria?
TT: It’s funny because they all have bits that seem very authentic and then parts that really really grate on you as an ex-dancer because they seem so unreal. There were moments of Black Swan where the mood was very evocative of what company life is like but I could never get past watching a person who is not a dancer try to dance. It drove me crazy that they couldn’t cast a real dancer as the lead part. We’ll see if history is kind to that film, whereas I think Suspiria has become more influential with age. The Company seems the most accurate but one of my favorite dance related movies that I just watched again recently is Fame. When I was really young, I would watch it over and over and all I wanted was to go to a high school like that and be surrounded by talented dancers and performers.

OAK: What type of music do you like? What’s currently on your Spotify/Soundcloud/iTunes?
TT: Lately I have been switching back and forth between an older recording of Tristan and Isolde– which I have never seen in performance– and OMD, which I love listening to when I am designing. In my car I listen to mostly 80’s-era album cuts and house mixes on various Sirius channels. Satellite radio is a real luxury when you are in your car as much as we are. I have a great deal of music on hard drives and actual CD’s, which are stacked away in my home office.

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LD Tuttle Sign sandal in black.

OAK: Back to your design experience, you worked for Givenchy and Rebecca Taylor before launching your own brand. What motivated you to branch out and start your own line? What did you take with you from those work experiences when launching LD Tuttle?
TT: I learned a lot of the obvious things at both of those companies: how the fashion industry functions, the arc of bringing something from design to production, how a designer handles situations, etc. When I worked at Rebecca Taylor, I was lucky because the company was still very small, so although I was on the design team, I worked very closely with production and I saw how the sales team worked. Then when I started my own company I had a lot of knowledge about how to actually run a business besides just how to design a collection.

OAK: You’ve said in the past that you’re interested in opening a physical LD Tuttle store. What would the interior of an LD Tuttle store look like?
TT: The details are changing all of the time in my head! Above all else I would really want it to look like the inside of a medieval castle: spare, romantic and austere.

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LD Tuttle Slide sandal in black.

OAK: LD Tuttle is nearing the decade mark (congratulations, by the way!). What did you envision for your brand at its inception, and what do you want to explore with LD Tuttle over the next 10 years?
TT: Thank you – I rarely think about that. It is hard to remember what I envisioned for the brand at its inception — I think I was so worried about actually getting the collection produced. But in the next 10 years (or next few years), I really would like to expand into some other areas. The first will be a full men’s collection. This has been something that I have experimented with for a few seasons with our unisex shoes but soon we will be launching a full-fledged men’s collection. I just really want to stay focused on what LD Tuttle means to me, and I want to keep refining the concept through the collections themselves, our videos, photography etc. Staying below the radar just enough to realize the freedom to reinvent and take new approaches has been important to me all along. I’ve been fortunate to be able to have fun while designing, and I never want that feeling to go away.

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