Gianvito Rossi has rarely known a time without shoes in his life.
“[Growing up], it was very difficult to distinguish the difference between home and factory — it was all the same,” the designer told FN editorial director Michael Atmore during a conversation at the FN CEO Summit on Monday. “It was a big playground. I had a lot of friends who were working for my father. So it was great.”
As the son of footwear legend Sergio Rossi, the designer joined the family business at an early age, and he recalled that his parents even sent him alone to New York when he was 16 years old, to present the latest collection to the company’s U.S. agents.
And though he knew early on that he loved shoes, it wasn’t until 2006 that he realized quite how much.
“My father sold the company to the Gucci Group, and we collaborated with them for a few years, but then there were some changes in management, and we terminated the collaboration. So we had this office, and it was full of paperwork but no shoes,” recalled Rossi. “That was the first time in my life that I spent a month or three months without shoes around, and that was odd. When you have had something since the beginning of your life, it’s not so easy to understand how much it is worth for you, but the day you miss it, you realize. I’d always been involved with shoes, and I was passionate about it, but it wasn’t something that I really chose to do, so when I had no more of it, I realized that it was my life — the way I speak.”
It was then that the younger Rossi struck out on his own and launched his eponymous luxury footwear brand. And though he launched during a challenging time — in 2007, on the eve of the global recession — his label grew steadily, gaining favor with top tastemakers for his unique perspective.
“What I am doing is more of a frame than a masterpiece,” said Rossi. “What I want is to design something that lets the woman look beautiful.”
Part of Rossi’s success has come from the fact that he has overseen both the business and creative aspects of the company, although he admitted that recently, his board members found sketches on the balance sheet, which led him to realize it might be time to share some of the duties and bring on a CEO. “The work/life balance is getting unstable. I think I need to work on that,” he said, laughing.
As for the carrying on the family legacy, Rossi said he hopes his daughter, Sophia, will join him in the company soon, after she finishes her time at university studying art history. And his son, Nicola, has already been helping him grow the Asia business but recently has been pursuing a line of work in politics. “He’s running for mayor of our town,” boasted the proud father. “The election is in two weeks.”
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