Gianvito Rossi Talks Milan Boutique Revamp, Retail Push and the Art of Shoemaking

MILAN — Gianvito Rossi’s list of good intentions for the new year is short and pretty straightforward. “To keep doing what I love, that is beautiful shoes, and have customers experience the brand in a way that matches the quality of the product,” he said in an interview held at his newly revamped flagship store here.

The first unit launched by the brand, the 1,400-square-foot location opened in 2008 in the historic 19th-century Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi in the city’s golden shopping triangle with an interior concept developed in partnership with Milan-based architect Patricia Urquiola, with whom Rossi teamed again for the refurbishing.

gianvito rossi milan store
Gianvito Rossi Milan store.
CREDIT: Courtesy

In sync with Rossi’s approach to his designs, the revamp was more about an evolution of the previous space rather than marking a new, disruptive aesthetic. The signature muted shade of powder pink — nodding to the color of his shoes’ interior sole — was still the hue of preference, combined with champagne and earth tones and gold details. The store design mixes essential lines with sinuous surfaces, ranging from the round onyx tables and metal shelves to velvet sofas and leather armchairs.

Rossi said the goal was to offer a welcoming and warm environment through modernity, “which can sometimes be too hard or cold.”

The restyle was the latest in a streak of projects aimed at enhancing the company’s retail presence. It followed the opening of a shop-in-shop at Harrods’ last month and a series of stores in the Middle East and China earlier this year.

The brand unveiled units at Dubai Mall and Place Vendôme mall in Doha, which will be soon joined by openings in Riyadh and in Turkey in early 2023. In China, the launch at SKP Beijing was followed by locations in Chongqing and Chengdu this year.

Pinpointed as pivotal for the company’s growth, Middle East and Asia still come only second and third in the ranking of best-performing markets for the brand. According to Rossi, the U.S. — where the shoe brand opened its first stand-alone store in 2015 — still holds the lead.

In addition to the aforementioned locations, Gianvito Rossi has stores in Rome, Paris, Monte Carlo, London, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.

The designer underscored that controlling locations directly enables the brand to display the whole product assortment and ensure the best customer experience. Yet Rossi stressed that there are no plans in cutting the wholesale presence, made up of “solid collaborations and historic ties.” International stockists of the brand include Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-porter, to name a few.

Overall, sales generated from Gianvito Rossi’s direct channels — including online — are expected to grow 50 percent in 2022 compared to last year.

In 2021, the company’s total sales were up 30.5 percent to 73.7 million euros compared to 2020, when it generated 56.4 million euros, according to sources. The brand projects it will register a similar double-digit growth in 2022, too, reaching pre-pandemic sales levels — Gianvito Rossi was said to have totaled around 95 million euros in 2019. Asked about recent rumors that wanted the company coming up for sale, Rossi waved away the speculations, underscoring that interest by suitors has always been there.

Commenting on the company’s annual performance instead, he noted that “the return to social life after the pandemic propelled the interest [in the brand] as there’s a wish of dressing in a more special way, more sophisticated and feminine.”

This shift matches the designer’s approach, which is rooted in putting footwear at the service of women. “I like to offer shoes that enhance them, their individuality and make them more confident, rather than having women become ambassadors of one brand or the other,” Rossi said. He also addressed the change of paradigm occurred in fashion in the recent past, noting that “today there’s not a dogma, an absolute trend that everyone must follow and uniform to it,” and customers can embrace freedom and play by their own rulebook.

Rossi’s designs hinge on less-is-more style with a heightened attention on proportions that elongate the silhouette and quality. Rather than introducing new models that could tap into seasonal trends, he prefers to update his creations by tweaking materials or gradually expanding his tight color palette, therefore conferring continuity and longevity to his line.

Bestsellers include the Gianvito stiletto pump, the Vamp Open Toe bootie, the Plexi collection and the Portofino sandal, whose simple yet graphic design has been revisited in the new Bijoux style.

“It’s all about maximum simplicity that demands the maximum care and precision in proportions and details,” said Rossi, stressing that quality is pivotal in such an aesthetic.

The designer, who launched his namesake brand in 2006 after spending years studying shoemaking under his father Sergio Rossi, noted the market has evolved to appreciate true craftsmanship too, as this represents a real point of difference in an ever-competitive segment.

Even if some of its most iconic styles get knockoffs — “which can also be a flattering thing because it means you did something interesting, after all,” he said with a smile. Rossi underscored that shoes “are a difficult product to copy…they require many techniques, a huge work of research and fine-tuning.”

For one, each pump requires 60 steps, starting with the meticulous selection of the raw materials, with each piece of leather cut individually to avoid imperfections before being assembled. All Gianvito Rossi shoes are handcrafted in Italy, with the production and development plant located in San Mauro Pascoli, a town renowned for its longstanding footwear tradition.

The designer’s priority is securing that such a legacy is preserved and that the brand’s know-how is passed down to younger generations. To this end, 18 months ago, Rossi launched an in-house academy, enrolling a handful of retired expert craftsmen of his company to train professional figures in the field.

Through the years, the company has put its craftsmanship at use of other brands, too, via special collaborations, including a one-off capsule collection developed with Etro and debuted on the red carpet of Venice Film Festival in 2020.

Earlier this year, Gianvito Rossi teamed with French eco-luxury beauty label La Bouche Rouge on two exclusive lipstick hues and refillable cases in dusty pink and silver leather repurposed from offcuts of the footwear brand’s permanent collection of leather shoes.

While Rossi said the idea is to continue to explore new tie-ups, especially with partners hailing from other industries, the collaboration with La Bouche Rouge was particularly fitting as the parties involved shared a green approach and attention in reducing their environmental footprint.

To this end, last year Gianvito Rossi unveiled a sustainability roadmap that built on its eco-friendly plan established in 2019 in tandem with the University of Bologna, labeled as the oldest university in the world.

The company implemented a platform that uses quantitative measurements and data analysis to reduce the environmental and social impact, ranging from measuring its energy consumption and waste management to assessing its entire supply chain, including raw materials and processes.

“Sometimes there’s more storytelling than facts behind sustainability, while we wanted to have a methodology enabling us to constantly measure our impact,” Rossi said.

The brand also pledged to assess all its suppliers and distributors by 2025, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by compensating all Scope 3 GHG emissions throughout its pipeline.

This story originally appeared on WWD.com.

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