Sole Bearing

Italian shoe label Sergio Rossi new CEO wants to bring sexy back

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Riccardo Sciutto understands the profound relationship between a woman and her shoes. That’s why, to know a woman, he will glance at her feet. Her choice of footwear reveals more than where she is going or where she has been to.

“You can understand a lady a lot with her shoes,” Sciutto said. To illustrate his point, he pointed at a working woman wearing white moccasins. “For a lady to wear flats, she is projecting self confidence. She dares to break the mold.”

The almost psychic ability to decipher a woman’s mind is a necessary occupational hazard. Sciutto is chief executive of the Milan-based footwear company Sergio Rossi.

The label is known for its high-octane creations that add oomph and unabashed glamor to the female wardrobe. Its iconic monotone stilettos and thigh-high boots are must-haves for the well-heeled.

Sex appeal is the name of the game, and Sergio Rossi excels in it. However, Sciutto is attempting to redefine sexy.

“Wearing short skirts and high heels was the definition of sexy. We need to destroy that preconception,” he said. “Today the ladies are much more confident and ready to live life. They can wear pants and shorter heels and still look sexy.”

The past year saw great changes at Sergio Rossi, with ownership changing hands from the Kering Group to Investindustrial in December 2015. The private equity firm also retains the car manufacturer Aston Martin and furniture company B&B Italia in its investment portfolio.

Sciutto was appointed in April 2016. A fashion veteran, Sciutto brought with him a wealth of senior managerial experience he gained at the jeweler Pomellato.

His credentials in clothes are equally impressive. Born in Bra, Piedmont — an Italian city famous for its wine and truffles — Sciutto came from a family whose company had produced merchandise for Max Mara.

Sciutto has also worked for leather goods and footwear label Hogan, where he pushed forward a project to continue the label’s tradition of making luxury sneakers.

Sciutto had been working with the new owner a year to relaunch the footwear label. He started with a bold proposition: rather than betting on a celebrity designer, he and a team of young designers would lead the creative vision.

“My idea was for customers to fall back in love again with Sergio Rossi. We looked at our DNA, but at the same time, we are thinking about the future in order to establish a new line that would represent a new family of shoes and the rebirth of the label.”

The new collection, called sr1, was conceived with innovative concepts. Exotic sky-high pumps were replaced with wearer-friendly daywear. An example is a new creation that merges the design of moccasin and slipper, and features an elongated tongue.

The collection is evergreen. It will keep expanding every season. But all the pieces added are meant to be season-less.

“Squared-toe is the direction but pointed-toe will be added. There will be different proportions and lower heels. Our shoes are meant for walking,” Sciutto said.

“Modern women are revolving every day. They no longer carry many pairs of shoes for different occasions. They love to have one style that they can wear to work for the entire day. Our heels were 10 or 11 centimeters high. Now, we make more six-centimeter heels.”

While balancing femininity and functionality is the goal, it is a challenge for a company that takes a couture-like approach to footwear. The “beauty is pain” mentality still lingers in high-street fashion. And Sciutto will need to rewrite the book.

“The risk about being a visionary is that at the beginning you may be seen as a little bit crazy. I see what is going to happen in the next one or two years but I need to explain it to the team and get their trust before I can tell it to the customers,” he said.

“For me, shoes are where the magic happens. I can put three ladies in front of you, and by dressing them with different shoes, they will each show a different mentality and attitude. It’s a kind of magic that a dress and a bag cannot give you.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on May 19, 2017.

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