Gianvito Rossi, Manolo Blahnik + Other Designers & Industry Stalwarts Pay Tribute to Sergio Rossi

Following the death of footwear legend Sergio Rossi from coronavirus, designers paid heartfelt tributes today.

Sergio Rossi was born in San Mauro Pascoli, one of Italy’s main shoemaking regions, in 1935. He learned the trade from his own father, began producing footwear in the early 1950s and launched his namesake brand in 1968. As he grew his own label, the designer also collaborated with fashion houses such as Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaïa. Rossi developed a number of groundbreaking styles such as the Opanca sandal with its curved sole.

Here, designers and footwear figures — from Gianvito Rossi and his family to industry stalwart Cesare Casadei to new generation talent Amina Muaddi — talk about Sergio Rossi’s lasting legacy.

The Rossi Family Statement

“Sergio Rossi died last night, not without fighting, at the age of 84. The Sammaurese entrepreneur had contracted COVID-19, and had been hospitalized for days in the intensive care of the Bufalini hospital in Cesena. His is a story of unconditional love for shoes, which began in an Italy consumed by the Second World War, and learned from an artisan father, who has always made bespoke shoes. At the age of 14, he was a skilled shoemaker and together with his brother Franco, produced the shoes he would later sell in the summer in banquet along the Riviera. His talent was soon noticed, and he began a successful journey: from a young designer to a great entrepreneur.

An extraordinary career that has made San Mauro Pascoli a world capital of luxury women’s footwear. His line has combined creative design with a quality achieved by a long work of improvement, tireless and endless. His international rise is marked by collaborations with the greatest fashion icons, including, the most iconic ever, young Gianni Versace.

sergio rossi
Sergio Rossi
CREDIT: Sergio Rossi

A man who gave all of himself, to the shoe, but also to his community. He wanted to donate the knowledge learned in a lifetime to future generations, transmitting them through Cercal, a school founded with his Sammauresi companions.

He has always stood out for his class and his strong, charismatic, generous, courageous character: a natural leader, loved and respected at the same time by his collaborators, with whom, in the long journey of his life he created one big family.

There are those who have had the good fortune to transform their art into a work and those who have the extraordinary talent of transforming their work into a work of art. Sergio Rossi was this man. A husband, father, grandfather, and progenitor of a family that followed his example.

The family offers, with love, their last goodbye: ‘With the unquenchable fire of your passion, you taught us that there are no limits for those who love what they do. Goodbye maestro.'”

Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of Sergio Rossi

“He was a master. It was a great pleasure to have met him, he was our spiritual guide and he is today more than ever. … The designer loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way. He was never over the top, always in good taste. The shoes were always wearable and he was never satisfied until they were perfect. They were not accessories for him. He told me once that he wanted to create the perfect extension of a woman’s leg.”

Cesare Casadei

“When I heard the sad news today I realized that life is not to be taken for granted. My heart is with Sergio’s family in this time of sorrow and grief. My thoughts and prayers are with them. I remember Sergio as one of my father’s best friends and a close neighbor (in Italian shoe district San Mauro Pascoli). He was a strong man with a vision, a fair competitor and a loyal man. His son, Gianvito, and I learned from our fathers’ integrity, respect for others and appreciation for what we were given. I am sure that we all remember Sergio as one of the shoemakers that changed the concept of the shoe.”

Manolo Blahnik

“Sergio was one of the main forces in Italian manufacture and design. I met him years ago and he was so charming – he contributed so much, he was a major talent and very important. He had an incredible flair for what is current, he produced wonderful things. It’s an enormous loss for the shoe industry.”

François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering

“Sergio Rossi was more than a great shoe designer and a successful entrepreneur: he played a key role in the luxury shoe sector throughout his career. His shoes were the epitome of elegance and comfort, designed to fit perfectly women’s expectations. He has left an indelible mark on the luxury shoe sector. I want to express my sympathy to Gianvito and the whole family in this sad moment.”

Rupert Sanderson

“I’m very sad to hear that Sergio Rossi died last night. I have many amazing memories of working for Sergio. He was my first shoe boss. Starting with an internship it eventually turned into a full blown job offer. The way the offer was made remains a true moment in my shoe life. I had been bunking off to try and find engine parts for my old Vespa back in London, so when he called me into the office I thought I was for the chop. He and Gianvito were sitting on one side of a simple desk and I was on the other, Sergio reached into a drawer and produced a cigar and a job offer. I still keep the Cohiba he gave me that day on my desk. Sergio was very generous allowing us to roam free throughout his factory, modelaria and magazzini. This generosity allowed me to flourish quickly as a maker and designer. My experiences with the Rossi family inform my approach to shoe making and the ways of running a shoe business. Generous and visionary, he gave me my first true break in the business. My thoughts and prayers are with Gianvito, the Rossi family and the shoemaking community of San Mauro Pascoli.”

Giuseppe Zanotti

In the small town of San Mauro Pascoli, we are 10.000 inhabitants only and we all know each other. When I was a teenager, there were only model-makers, but Sergio was already a designer and entrepreneur, a true legend for us. The ’70s were the years of the rise of companies like Casadei and Pollini, which were already doing business in Italy and abroad, especially in the USA. Sergio belonged to the generation before mine and he has always been a legend and role model for many of us. He did so much for our shoe district – he started Cercal, a school which trains young students to become professionals in the world of footwear, and that I am proud to be part of along with other renowned shoe companies. I respect and admire Sergio, because he was a pioneer of the shoe industry. He was the first to collaborate with young designers in the late 70s and early 80s. A real loss for us and for our industry.

Samuele Failli

“I am so sad. I never had the chance to meet Sergio Rossi but I was always a big fan of his great work. I remember when I was a child and my mum used to buy a lot of his shoes. She would take me to his store in Florence often and I very much enjoyed watching her trying on so many pairs. He was one of the reasons why I love my job. He never made crazy unwearable shoes, they were simple, flattering and very beautiful. I always thought he was the modern Charles Jourdan. They were very similar in doing simple shoes that can make a woman feel sexy and beautiful and never vulgar. He was been one of the greats of all time.”

Nicholas Kirkwood

“I was saddened to wake up this morning to the news of the passing of legendary Italian shoe designer Sergio Rossi. He was a true master of his craft. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family.”

Nicolò Beretta, creative director of Giannico and L’Autre Chose

“It’s so sad to hear this heartbreaking news. Sergio Rossi has always been an inspiration for all of us, one of the founding pillars of ‘Made in Italy’ and Italian fashion as we know it today. His name will last in history as a great entrepreneur and a wonderful creative mind.”

Amina Muaddi

“RIP to the legend that Sergio Rossi was and will forever remain. This is such a sad day for me, for the fashion industry and for women across the globe who he has graced with his creations for decades. My sincerest condolences to the Rossi family for their loss. When I went to the Sergio Rossi factory in December because I was going to start producing my collection in their factory, I was taken to the museum built in his honor inside the factory. I felt so much emotion going through his incredible work and looking at the archives that I could barely focus on my meeting. The legacy he left behind is immeasurable. Thank you master, may you rest in peace.”

Chloe Gosselin

“Woke up to the news of @sergiorossi ‘s passing today. He was my hero in this industry & the reason I started my own brand. His work gave me the passion for Italian shoes, perfectly made and comfortable yet still fierce, striking and innovative. My deepest condolences to the Sergio Rossi family sending much love and thoughts @gianvitorossi #madeinItaly #iloveitaly.”

Olivia Palermo

“We lost a true creative force in the accessories world today. My thoughts are with the Rossi family, friends, and team at this difficult and unprecedented time.”

Tamara Mellon

“I’m deeply sad to learn about the passing of Sergio Rossi this morning. I have an immense amount of respect for him as a designer and businessman. His story is one that gives me so much personal inspiration— founding one of the first shoe brands to sell to a luxury group in 1999. He invented the opanca sole, which is one of my favorites, and he gave us his son, Gianvito Rossi, whose shoes I love. Fashion and the world at large will miss him. xx, TM.”

Sophia Webster

“Our deepest condolences to Sergio Rossi’s family. The world has lost one of the greatest shoe designers of our time.”

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