“I grew up among shoes,” Gianvito Rossi, son of Italian footwear royalty Sergio Rossi , explains to me during our interview at Harvey Nichols – Dubai. “Shoes were my Legos.”
Fast-forward to adulthood, and Gianvito, who worked with his father for over twenty years before deciding to launch his own label in 2006, has successfully carved out a well-crafted design narrative for his namesake brand, in which Italian craftsmanship and international glitz – as seen through his designs that range in style from ladylike sandals and over-the-knee boots to his infamous sparkling ‘Plexi Pumps’ in metallic hues of fuchsia, green, and sky-blue – are the protagonists.
As anyone who has dared to get involved in a family business knows, with his father’s success there was pressure to follow in his footsteps. There was also opportunity, and when the younger Rossi decided to begin his own shoe label, he found the perfect balance between upholding family tradition and creating something of his own. When I ask the designer what he learned from his father, he explains: “You must always go ahead. There is always a way to do it better. Try to do it better. You can never stop. There is always something to learn.”
It’s Rossi’s first time in Dubai and he’s flown in from San Mauro Pascoli, a small Italian city near Rimini where he will return to in just a few days. “Rimini is where Fellini was from,” Rossi tells me with pride, referencing the classic Italian filmmaker known for his fantasy-fueled imagery and dreamlike plotlines. “I haven’t had the opportunity to do any sightseeing in Dubai but I hope to have a look at the beach and the mall.”
“And what about the important sightseeing – the shoe sightseeing, have you done any of that?” I ask. “Honestly, I haven’t seen much yet. From this point of view I think the footwear here is no different in taste from the rest of the world. The fashion community is spreading all around in a similar way. Sensibility is more international these days. Within every region there is different taste, but I don’t see that there is only one particular kind of shoe taste here.” His answer strikes me. Most designers who come to the Middle East for the first time are eager to align the skyscraper city with skyscraper heels and a penchant for fashion glitz. Interestingly, Rossi sees no such correlation.
And what inspires the Italian designer? “Once you get your design philosophy, you have your starting points, which for me are Italian modern design and architecture. It is an evolution of these concepts. What really helps is what you see around the world. This has influence on your designs.”
In a final bubbling over of curiosity I ask, “So, when did you first fall in love with shoes?” He responds slowly, “It has always been natural for me. You know, when you are involved in something for a long time, you can’t really understand how much it’s worth.” He pauses, to reflect on the exact moment when his passion began. “In 2005, for the first time in my life, I found myself alone with shoes. It was then that I really understood how much they meant to me. There was nothing to talk about. This was really the moment when I understood that this was for me.”