FRANCESCO RUSSO Keeps It Sleek and Seductive at SERGIO ROSSI

For 50 years, women have relied on Sergio Rossi shoes to transform them from mere mortals into sauntering sirens, empowered but restrained, mysterious but inviting.

With his Fall 2011 collection, Creative Director Francesco Russo builds on this deep tradition of feminine strength, adding his unique brand of playfulness to the iconic legacy he guards.

In between designing the collection and overseeing its gorgeous campaign, Mr. Russo took a moment to chat with Barneys’ Simon Doonan about sexiness, Sergio, and the sensuality of shoes.

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Simon Doonan: How has Sergio Rossi managed to stay relevant for 50 years?

Francesco Russo: Through all these years, Sergio Rossi has demonstrated that it is a sustainable brand, able to create and produce products that are synonymous with high-end quality and design. I am sitting on a very strong heritage in terms of “know-how” as a shoe specialist, and I’m trying to inject a strong desirability in terms of design.

SD: Where do you plan to take the company now that you’re the creative director?

FR: I am really trying my best to reinforce the essence of the shoe [this brand is known for]: the idea of a unique silhouette, the lightness, the sexiness, a sense of timelessness that Sergio Rossi products always had. [I want to create] seductive products that will last forever in a woman’s wardrobe.

SD: Sergio Rossi shoes are synonymous with “sexy.” How has the notion of sexiness evolved over the years?

FR: The idea of sexiness hasn’t really changed. What I personally find attractive, in a sensual way, is a person that lives well in her own skin, with a sense of nonchalance, of natural being.

SD: Describe the perfect women’s shoe. What elements must it have?

FR: I think the perfect women’s shoe should elongate the leg and flatter the most sensual aspect of the foot. It should excite the wearer and the watcher.

SD: What makes Sergio Rossi shoes special today?

FR: Attention to comfort and the study of strong design makes our shoes a good [foundation] for women that like to feel empowered wearing high heels. Although my attention as designer is not just focused on this specific category.

SD: Should every look begin with a great shoe?

FR: I don’t necessarily think that a good look always begins with the shoe. It can really be both, meaning the shoes can finish a look or begin it. It really depends on the mood and what you’re looking for. I remember Stefano Pilati saying that he would begin his look starting from the socks, for example.

SD: Have you picked up any tips from Sergio Rossi himself?

FR: He left the company before I was appointed as creative director, but back when I was working at Yves Saint Laurent, I had the chance to meet him, and we shared a long exchange about shoe-making. I retain fond memories about that exchange, and I will always remember his thoughts and advice for the rest of my life. He is someone that devoted his entire life to shoe-making. For me, it was fascinating to see the way he looked at shoes: it was like a father lovingly admiring his own child!

SD: What is the greatest reward of working for a brand that’s as iconic as Sergio Rossi?

FR: It is about building on 50 years of know-how, and being supported by people who are able to translate a simple design into something magnificent. My biggest reward is seeing my “babies,” the shoes I’ve designed, walking down the street.

- Tory Hoen

Shop the Sergio Rossi collection here.

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