How do you refuel a long-established Italian luxury brand? In today’s complex and challenging climate, this is a complicated question.
Sergio Rossi’s CEO, Riccardo Sciutto, is taking an unconventional approach to waking up what he affectionately calls the “sleeping beauty.” He’s not pushing a designer face. Instead, he’s focusing on playing up the brand’s heritage and craftsmanship, while highlighting digital and social media as the company has never done before. At the heart of the revamp is the SR1 collection, a modern twist on Sergio Rossi classics.
Under its new owner, Investindustrial, the brand kicked off its rebirth with the September 2016 launch of its SR1 collection. The latest SR1 Neo Romantic collection takes inspiration from the ’90s. For example, a key pointy-toe silhouette references a style from 1997.
Celebrities such as Katy Perry have responded to the company’s products — she’s wearing Sergio Rossi shoes onstage during her “Witness” tour. But for Sciutto, celebrity attention is just one part of an ambitious strategy.
Retailers such as Zappos Luxury are also aware of the label’s recent style revival.
“Over the years, the Zappos Luxury customer has loved Sergio Rossi’s amazing evening shoes,” said Katie Doolin Lloyd, the retailer’s European designer senior buyer. “Their Godiva and new SR1 silhouettes capture how the brand is evolving their offering with more day-to-night options. We’re seeing this shift with many of our brands, and it’s one that is resonating with our customers.”
The CEO recently discussed with Footwear News some key accomplishments and his vision for the year ahead.
Since you’ve joined, how has the brand evolved?
“The main job was to bring back the right DNA, the right products and the spirit of the Sergio Rossi woman. Heritage is crucial. One of my sayings is: ‘Think heritage, play digital.’ For me, it was to come to the origin but in a modern way, and the best way to do that is to produce the content internally. Then you can share the content immediately. Before, you would think about big projects and then develop and design. Now you make a mistake, adjust, understand and make them again. We have a new energy. We are one of the only companies able to produce everything internally. Over 1,000 pairs of shoes per day are made through 120 steps, and 120 people are involved in making these shoes.”
How do you describe the SR1 collection?
“That is the symbol of the rebirth. SR1 is the starting point. It’s respect to the brand and the heritage. When you see the shoes, you know what is the past, the present and the future. SR1 has suddenly been two-thirds of the business after two seasons.”
Why aren’t you putting the focus on one specific designer?
“I coordinated the team, so the fault [lies with] me. I believe in designers, [but] the name itself is big enough. The factory is teamwork. There doesn’t need to be one person [to carry it]. It’s the heritage, it’s the factory, it’s the capability of the marketing team, the design team. Why put the weight and the attention on one part of the process? That is very dangerous. You see how much [designers] change every day. [With a focus on the lead designer], you lose credibility. We need to be consistent.”
What is your retail strategy?
“We refurbished all the stores in China and Hong Kong with a new concept. Now we are doing that in Europe, in Paris and next season in Milan. The next step is America.”
What does your customer want in terms of shoes?
“The best-seller is daywear. I had a meeting with a department store last year, and they wanted 105-millimeter heels and higher. For us, 75 millimeters is amazing. My idea was to understand the behavior of the customer. Now the customer wants to wear the same shoes in the morning and night. Finally the direction of the customer has [met] the reality and DNA of the Sergio Rossi story.”
What is your goal for the U.S. market in 2018?
“To open a Sergio Rossi store in New York. We need to do it [in] a new way to speak to the customer and tell our story with different projects and customization. Half of the business is [in] Asia, and the rest is split between Europe and America. America is the opportunity. It’s the smallest market for us. Finally, it’s good momentum. When it’s a tough period, you get the best deal to start.”
What potential do you have in wholesale?
“I will find the right partner able to trust in us and do something together because I cannot do it alone. I strongly believe the department store culture is crucial for the market, but we need to make the step together. In America, the situation of the department store is tricky because they are a little bit lost. They didn’t recognize the customer was changing their behavior. People want experience. There’s not enough brand presence, the people don’t know the brand, and they don’t tell the story. Customers deserve more, [and] I’m trying to be the customer inside the company.”
What challenges are you facing?
“We are in the middle of the river. [We can’t] forget about the customer, and we need to be consistent with the strategy and [over the] long term, but also [we need] to create small adjustments every day. We need to [be] flexible. I’m always aware that it’s the only way. We have more than 200 new people on board, [including] the receptionist. You need passion, energy and spirit to join [our organization]. We are making a new vision to build the company and not only the brand.”