First Look at Roberto Vasi

Longtime friends Vasilios Christofilakos and Robert Mingione are pooling their industry knowledge to take on the young men’s market this fall.

Christofilakos, an assistant professor of accessories design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and Mingione, whose background is in product development, will launch Roberto Vasi, a collection of modern looks aimed at fashion-forward consumers.

“It’s for guys who like style without being fashion victims,” Mingione said about the series of military-inspired boots, shoes and sneakers that will retail for $100 to $200.

“We saw a void in the market,” said Christofilakos, creative director of the new brand.

Added Mingione, who serves as president, “There was a lot of me-too product out there. Men need more of a voice. Our shoes are strong, masculine, but fashionable.”

To that end, the designers have given the collection tailored touches such as pinstripe linings and unit bottoms with herringbone patterns. “There’s a connection between the uppers and soles,” said Mingione. “We’ve taken the idea of menswear tailoring and brought it into footwear.” Additionally, comfort elements, including footbeds with a proprietary cushioning system, are key.

The duo also plays up the line’s urban vibe, which they expect will resonate with guys in big cities across the country and not just fashion centers. (New York-based Roberto Vasi is targeted to department stores and shoe chains, with delivery slated for August.)

Mingione and Christofilakos already are planning to expand in future seasons with the addition of accessories, including small leather goods, bags and travel pieces. “They’ll have the same [footwear] aesthetic put into trend-right pieces,” said Christofilakos.

The Inspiration

Current events, including the war in Afghanistan, influenced the line’s military-style boots and camouflage mocs. “[The line reflects] the acceptance of what’s going on in the world,” said Mingione. “We wanted to make things that would excite and inspire the audience.”

The Buzz

“[The line] brings a unique point of view to the men’s fashion business,” said Crystal Kirkbride, DMM of athletic and men’s for DSW, which picked up the brand for fall. “They were able to put together an assortment of fashionable, yet wearable shoes. They incorporate their own twist with interesting details, materials, textures and colors.”

The Designers

Vasilios Christofilakos (left) and Robert Mingione met in the 1990s at FIT. Mingione, then a merchandiser at Bally, took several of Christofilakos’ design classes. He then went on to oversee product development at Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and Collective Brands Inc. and often tapped Christofilakos’ classes for interns.