Sergio Rossi, the celebrated shoe designer, has died at the age of 84. The cause of death for the master cordwainer, who founded one of Italy’s most illustrious footwear brands in 1968, is not known. He was hospitalised in Cesena for a few days, leading sources to speculate he had contracted coronavirus.
The brand’s chief executive officer, Riccardo Sciutto – who has been at the company since April 2016 – announced the news on the morning of 3 April, according to WWD. “It was a great pleasure to have met him,” said Sciutto. “He was our spiritual guide and he is today more than ever.”
Sciutto went on to praise Rossi’s business nous, but also his ability to tap into female sensibilities. “[The designer] loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way,” he explained. “He was never over-the-top, always in good taste. The shoes were always wearable and he was never satisfied until they were perfect. They were not accessories for him. He told me once that he wanted to create the perfect extension of a woman’s leg.”
Rossi’s cutting-edge footwear, including the famous Opanca sandal, inspired generations of shoe designers, including his son, Gianvito Rossi, who worked with his father until the business was sold to Gucci Group (now Kering) in 1999. Gianvito continued the family legacy by launching his own eponymous brand in 2007.
Since Kering sold Sergio Rossi to Investindustrial in 2015 – which subsequently relaunched it to acclaim in 2019 – Sciutto and the team’s mission has been to “bring back the right DNA, the right products and the spirit of the Sergio Rossi woman”. This messaging is testament to the authenticity of the brand’s founder, who Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaïa all enlisted to pepper their own collections with his shoe-making magic over the years.
The Vogue team are big fans of the rebrand. “I have a black pair of square-toed SR1 sandals which are absolute staples in my wardrobe: the perfect patent, the perfect heel height, the perfect blend of ’90s minimalism with a modern edge,” says British Vogue news director, Olivia Singer. “Over the past few years, seeing the brand return to its roots has been brilliant and, in the office, Naomi Smart [shopping director] and I have formed something of a Sergio Rossi fan club (she loves the jewel-encrusted incarnations; I prefer the pared-back alternatives). If anyone ever needs advice on a shoe for an event, which they often do, we dispatch them towards the Mayfair store simply because the shoes are a rare blend of being both entirely wearable and exceptionally chic; there’s something for everyone.”
Smart concurs: “Sergio Rossi’s SR1s have been my secret footwear weapon for the last four years. Part of the permanent collection, they can sometimes be missed by even the biggest footwear fans among the noise of the latest drops. With a square open-toe, ankle-strap and varying heel heights – a mini for the office and a high option for an event – I’ve been hard-pressed to find another designer who nails the ’90s shoe shape so perfectly. Every time I wear them, I get asked where they are from. Their timelessness is testament to the talent of Sergio Rossi, the original shoe designer.”
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk