EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated from the print version to reflect that Dana Davis Footwear is not a medical product designed for diabetic women.
Dana Davis’ struggle with childhood diabetes led her mother, philanthropist Barbara Davis, to establish the famous Carousel of Hope Ball, which benefits diabetes research and attracts the rich and famous.
Now, the younger Davis’ struggle with diabetes has inspired her to address a more pedestrian challenge: the lack of fashionable but comfortable footwear.
Davis, a type 1 diabetic and longtime kindergarten teacher, lived for years with foot pain while wearing designer shoes, an experience that served as the inspiration for her line.
She started Dana Davis Footwear in Beverly Hills in 2009, and now her shoes are attracting customers such as Penelope Cruz and Carrie Underwood, who are looking for a comfortable option on the red carpet.
“I saw there was a glaring, missing niche. There were no orthotic shoes that were really pretty and fashionable,” said Davis, who for the past two weeks has operated a pop-up shop in Beverly Hills.
Davis was advised by doctors seven years ago to discontinue teaching due to her foot problems, which are common with diabetics due to nerve damage and reduced circulation in the extremities.
Then in 2008, while attending a fashion show in Las Vegas, she decided to start her company. After consulting with designers and podiatrists, she launched her line a year later and funded it herself.
The shoes, which are manufactured in Italy, include flats that start at $275 and heels than run as much as $450. They are not a medical product for diabetic women, but they provide extra support and cushioning, mainly in the heel and forefoot.
The line got some early publicity when Anne Hathaway wore a pair to the 2009 Academy Awards. The shoes are now sold online and at some 80 stores nationwide, including department stores such as Bloomingdales.
Davis is considering a permanent retail shop after seeing strong sales at the temporary Beverly Hills location, where her $795 leather boots are moving fast.
Ilse Metchek, director of the California Fashion Association in downtown Los Angeles, said orthotic fashion shoes might sound like an oxymoron, but Davis could be on to something.
“It’s a great premise, although it’s a niche market,” she said. “If Bloomingdales picked it up, there’s an opportunity there.”
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