When Meghan Markle stepped out on the day of the announcement of her four patronages, – which represent her philanthropic endeavors as Duchess of Sussex and representative of the crown – she wore a chic camel coat and classic black dress. And on her feet? A pair of Gianvito Rossi cow-print pumps that were unexpected and, dare we say it, sexy?
This is what Rossi, the son of legendary shoe designer Sergio Rossi, is renowned for: creating a shoe that powerful women wear to their most important occasions because it gives them an edge, the confidence to stride towards new goals and exciting future possibilities. On paper, shoes might seem like the sort of functional element of a wardrobe that most people give little thought to, but Rossi – having grown up in a house where shoes were essentially his “Legos” – knows that they are much more than that. Shoes are democratic; there is no barrier to wearing them or appreciating them barring bank account capacity.
Many women choose to dress “from the ground up”, letting their footwear choices take center stage, while others treat them with the reverence of a museum object, setting them up on softly lit pedestals within their walk-in wardrobes. In Rossi’s world, these essential objects offer a multitude of attributes: they can be collectibles, confidence boosters, conversation starters, or – in the case of the powerful women – a physical representation of their rise to the top.
Rossi recently touched down in Dubai to pay a visit to his corner of Bloomingdale’s-Dubai in The Dubai Mall which, alongside Harvey Nichols – Dubai, is the city’s sole purveyor of his collections. He has created some exciting new exclusives, some of which are bold and animal-print – perfect for a season where everything in fashion seems to either slither or roar. They’re in stock until they run out, but there are many additional Gianvito Rossi designs worth discovering at Bloomingdale’s and Harvey Nichols. We asked the man of the hour about future plans, design risks, and his take on Dubai. Here’s what he said.
You once joked that shoes were your Legos growing up. You were raised around them, and have been interested in them most of your life. My question is why, exactly? What is it about shoes that speaks to you, that resonates with you, that makes your creative pulse race?
I wasn’t forced to do it, nor pressed to do it – my parents gave me freedom to do what I wanted. But I grew up around it to the point where it was all I really knew. It was moving all around me all the time, the business and my family’s involvement in the business. It’s easy to get fascinated by something when it’s around you all the time.
So it feels inevitable that you would end up in footwear design?
Probably. I was made for it, in a way.
Dubai is a city of the future more than a city of the past.
You come from a land with so much history, so much soul. What do you think of Dubai in comparison? Have you been able to discover much of the city on your visits?
I don’t know Dubai very well because, of all the times I’ve been here, I have been working and unable to see the city as much as I would like. I really want to get acquainted, to see the way people live. How I see it is that Dubai is a city of the future more than a city of the past. That’s a big difference between Dubai and Italy. It’s interesting because you see new things every moment in Dubai.
What differences have you noticed between the Dubai and European markets?
You have people here from every part of the world. When people come here, they are more relaxed because you are by the sea. The climate is nice. It’s perfect for when you want to wear something light, but special. You see women here who like traditional styles and much more glamorous styles.
What brings you to Dubai this time?
I’m here because we have a very strong and long-time collaboration with Bloomingdale’s, and I wanted to meet with clients in person. It’s very important to me because I want to see who is buying my shoes, who is wearing my shoes. I’ve also brought Middle East exclusives to Bloomingdale’s and Harvey Nichols as well. They are themed around leopard print. The print is feline, and the way felines move is very feminine. I think that [the shoes] are very iconic; they speak of power and sensuality. They will be available here until they sell out, and they’re moving very quickly already.
Can you walk me through the design process of starting a new collection and working with your suppliers in Italy?
It’s interesting, but it’s also quite complicated because a shoe is made of so many components. First, you need to have the shape, so I start the design with a shape – it comes from my imagination. It needs to have a proper last (mold of the shoe), so a supplier must do that. Then you design the heel you want, and you have to have a supplier in order to create the heel. Next, you design the upper style, which is something we develop internally once we have the last and the heel back from our suppliers.
But that’s not all. We have the last supplier and the heel supplier, but also the sole supplier, the insole supplier, and more. And all of it is made in Italy – all of it. Everything and everyone has to work together to achieve the shoe, which starts off as just an idea. The assembling part is made in our own factory, as is the design development. It isn’t until the final step, when you assemble it together and try it on, that you find out if it actually works. It’s the most exciting part, but it can also be the most delusional part [laughs].
Shoes are a whole universe, they are my universe.
What would you say are the defining pillars of the house of Gianvito Rossi?
Design, quality, and the relationships with our clients. In terms of design, I wanted to follow my personal criteria: elegance, femininity, and modernity. The quality is important because every element and every accessory has to be of the highest quality, or else we wouldn’t be able to call it a luxury shoe. Our client relationships are very important, we always need to be capable in this area. It’s important to hear their feedback because that is the ultimate result of your work. Why else are you doing it?
We’ve noticed that even your highest heels tend to be a lot more comfortable than other shoes. Would you say comfort is an element of importance for you?
To me, it’s part of the quality. A luxury product should be a pleasure. If it’s not a pleasure, it’s not a luxury. Comfort is important, but you also have to feel sexy in them, you have to feel good. Most importantly, you want to look good. A great shoe will make you feel confident because you know you look good.
Have you ever taken a big design risk that you weren’t sure about?
Of course! The ‘Plexi’ collection is a good example. It’s an unusual style. I wasn’t sure how people would feel about it and, at the beginning, everyone was curious about why I was doing it, but it turns out my clients love it. I can never tell when something is going to be a big success or not. I can’t see the future, but I wish I could [laughs].
Do you have any brand expansion plans?
We are expanding into accessories. A clutch, gloves – I love those – but we will remain focused mostly on shoes. Shoes are a whole universe, they are my universe.