If the Shoe Fits

Celebrities such as Carrie Underwood and Juliette Lewis already have their hands (and feet) on Cleveland native Ryan Haber's shoe designs.

While studying interior design at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Ryan Haber also dabbled in architecture, golf course design and cuisine. But whether sitting in class or studying at a nearby Starbucks, he always found himself sketching sexy high heels.

"It was fun and exciting, and I could be really creative," says the 28-year-old shoe designer.

That creative outlet sparked Haber to assemble a portfolio of his shoe drawings, which ultimately caught the attention of Steve Madden, and in the summer of 2008, Haber got the opportunity to intern for the New York-based fashion footwear giant. Two of Haber's designs were sold worldwide in Steve Madden's 2009 spring and fall collections.

"If you saw my portfolio, it looked like a 2-year-old drew it," recalls Haber, now based in Solon. "They obviously saw potential. They really taught me the ins and outs of shoe design."

He went on to intern with BCBG Max Azria in Los Angeles and credits both experiences for validating his decision to remain in women's fashion footwear and launch the Ryan Haber Collection.

Haber's premiere collection, "Alter Ego" debuts this month, and it's already getting attention. Carrie Underwood was seen in Haber's "Glamorous" ($612), a two-tone cutout bootie platform with a Swarovski crystal ankle strap, at the 2011 Country Music Awards, and Juliette Lewis wore "Freak" ($511), a patent leather platform pump, at NBC's press tour for its new show The Firm.

It's easy to spot a Ryan Haber shoe because of his signature Italian-made heels. Typically, a standard high heel extends down through the heel of a woman's foot, but the heel on Haber's shoe is almost an extension of the outsole, running down the back of the shoe.

"It's delicate, but a bold and powerful heel," he says. "The heel is very thin, with this massive space between the heel and the bottom of the shoe, so it's almost funny to see [how the heel] could keep such a massive structure standing."

Haber says he begins each design with a rough sketch and lets his creativity lead him until a design begins to take shape.

"Shoes empower women, especially high heels," he says. "When a woman slips on a pair of shoes, something rushes into her body, and she morphs into this different person where she feels sexy."

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