In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Milan Fashion Week, in between shows, showroom visits, and other appointments, I step off the overcrowded Via Montenapoleone, away from the crowds of Asian tourists and wealthy shoppers that were spilling out of its luxury boutiques and off its narrow pavements, and make my way down the much quieter cobbled street of Via San Luca. Through a charming Milanese courtyard and up two flights of stairs I go, greeted at the top by a dashing young male model – the kind that seems to adorn the corner of every fashion party and presentation in Milan during Fashion Week – who ushers me into the Gianvito Rossi showroom, a serene, luxurious, dusty-rose space where I am scheduled to meet with the man, the legend behind what is arguably the most coveted footwear brand currently on the market.
I was being shown around the new Fall/Winter 2016 collection, which flawlessly incorporates military accents (think less camo print and more elegant fringing borrowed from army uniform epaulettes) into the brand’s signature styles, when Mr. Rossi entered the room. The perfect gentleman, he escorted me to a room where two chairs had been set up for the interview and patiently waited for me to be seated before taking a seat himself.
Let’s start with the beautiful collection that’s surrounding us today and that I’ve just had the pleasure of discovering. Could you please tell me a little bit about your designs for Fall/Winter 2016?
The collection you just saw is inspired by a military idea, which in a way is important because I wanted to fill this great distance between the idea of the army, of the military environment and the sense of elegance, beauty, and lightness that I really like in a shoe. I chose to do that not by focusing on the combat boot, but by using the high heel. With the velvet, the satin, elements like the military collar, the fringes, the buttons – it was very interesting. At the end I chose to give the collection a touch of trendiness and I think the use of strong colors like the blue, green, and yellow was very important.
The heels with colorful striped green and yellow mink are incredible!
You know we used to think of an elegant evening shoe as a black shoe, but I think now that a bright green shoe can be the nicest thing. We’re moving through a moment in fashion when you need to do something more, to play a little bit more with your look and I think that color will be the key to do that.
It’s important that you help the woman feel her full femininity without feeling overexposed. With heels, it’s easy to cross that line.
Absolutely – individuality is the hot topic du jour in fashion.
And that’s how you can use these colors to add something more and something different to your look. I don’t really like using stones, so for me an incredible color, an incredible leather, an incredible suede – that’s the real luxury.
And you would know a thing or two about luxury, as the son of the legendary Sergio Rossi. What was it like growing up your father’s son, in a house surrounded by shoes?
I literally grew up among shoes, but when you grow up like that as I child, whether it’s among shoes or among anything else that surrounds you, you cannot really realize what that thing is. To me, they were toys. The factory was my playground. I grew up and learned everything I know from my father, so to join him in his company was not really a choice; it was completely natural. I had always been surrounded by shoes – up until ten years ago, when I terminated the collaboration with my father’s company. All of a sudden I had a really odd sensation. For the first time, I was not in this world anymore, and it was only then that I realized how much it meant to me.
So when you left your father’s company, it wasn’t with the aim of starting your own?
Not at all! I left and then I realized how much I missed the world of shoes. It was my life and it’s what I wanted to do. I really had the chance to think about my life and I didn’t expect to feel what I did so strongly.
And that’s when you knew.
Exactly. That’s when I knew that creating shoes was what I wanted to do with my life.
So how does it feel to be the most important footwear designer in the world?
[Laugh] No no no!
Yes yes yes! Your designs are the most coveted and desirable right now.
It’s just nice to see that your customer and the people you care about appreciate what you do. It’s the best reward.
It’s easy to appreciate a brand that makes you feel instantly stronger and sexier the second you slip on a pair of shoes.
That should be the ultimate mission of any shoe designer.
So mission accomplished?
[Laughs] It’s important that you help the woman feel her full femininity without feeling overexposed. With heels, it’s easy to cross that line. I also say sometimes that my collection is a men’s collection, because I want to see a woman wearing my shoes and I want to like it!
You’re doing men everywhere a favor!
Yes! It’s not just about getting a man’s attention; it’s about getting their interest and getting them to wonder about this mysterious woman. But at the same time, a woman should feel good about herself in her shoes for herself, not for anyone else. This is a gift to herself.
Jumping back to your collection, you’ve introduced a new platform shape this season with a new heel that is, if I may say so, a little bit less sexy than what we’ve come to expect from you. Why is that?
I very much like the idea of light shoes, like the stiletto. I think it’s the sexiest and most elegant style. I hate it when a platform pretends to be sexy, super feminine, super sensual. But I do like the idea of a platform with a lower heel that is chunkier because it’s much more fun! So you can wear something sexy on top and with a fun shoe – or super sexy with the shoe and more casual on top. You have to create your own look and it is important to give the woman this possibility to play. Have fun!
Gianvito Rossi is available at Level Shoe District, The Dubai Mall.