When it comes to lux­ury shoe brands, they don’t get much more iconic than Ser­gio Rossi. Schön! speaks to An­gelo Ruggeri, the man re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing this Ital­ian legacy lives on.

Schon! - - The Rossi Effect - Words / Ginger Clark Pho­tog­ra­phy / Chris Turner Fash­ion Editor / Huma Hu­mayun Set De­sign / Kara Sims

An­gelo Ruggeri is wear­ing a very sim­ple, sleek pair of dou­ble monk-strap shoes. We may not be able to see them, but this is what he tells us over the phone. The young Ital­ian is at the Ser­gio Rossi HQ in Italy, where he cur­rently helms as the Col­lec­tion and De­sign Di­rec­tor, cre­at­ing the el­e­gant and fem­i­nine shoes that the brand is renowned for.

Born in Si­cily, Ruggeri is Ital­ian through and through. As a child, he would spend his sum­mers with his grand­mother, whom he cred­its for hav­ing given him a taste for fash­ion. A seam­stress in the North of Italy, not far from Mi­lan, he re­mem­bers watch­ing her sew evening dresses for her clients: “We had a re­ally close re­la­tion­ship and she taught me this pas­sion for re­fine­ment, for so­phis­ti­ca­tion and for lux­ury.” Know­ing from an early age that he wanted to work in fash­ion, this taste would even­tu­ally lead his foot­steps down the path of shoe de­sign.

Ruggeri stud­ied at Po­litec­nico Calza­turiero in Stra, near Venice, which spe­cialises in footwear, be­fore go­ing on to work for Gior­gio Ar­mani in 2003. This was fol­lowed by a first stint work­ing for Ser­gio Rossi from 2006 un­til 2011. Although he then spent some time at Tom Ford, it’s at Ser­gio Rossi that Ruggeri’s heart clearly lies. On more than one oc­ca­sion dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, he de­scribes his rap­port with the com­pany as a “long-last­ing re­la­tion­ship”. In­deed, it was whilst he was at Tom Ford that Ser­gio Rossi ap­proached him to of­fer him his cur­rent po­si­tion, which he whole­heart­edly ac­cepted: “Re­turn­ing to Ser­gio Rossi in 2013 felt like com­ing home.”

Hav­ing learnt from some of the world’s lead­ing lux­ury fash­ion houses, Ruggeri has grown up along the way. Work­ing at each fash­ion house was dif­fer­ent, from an un­der­stated aes­thetic at Gior­gio Ar­mani, to de­sign­ing with the idea of mak­ing women de­sir­able and se­duc­tive at Tom Ford. In both cases, how­ever, shoes were part of a much larger con­text, or “com­pli­men­tary of­fer­ing”, as Ruggeri puts it. At Ser­gio Rossi, on the other hand, ev­ery­thing re­volves around the shoe. What’s more, as Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and De­sign Di­rec­tor, Ruggeri’s new role comes with a much broader re­mit. “It’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing di­rec­tor,” he says. “The role in­volves all the pro­cesses, not sim­ply that of de­sign­ing shoes. It’s an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for me to give my 360° vi­sion of the brand, rather than just of the prod­uct.”

Ruggeri de­scribes the art of shoe­mak­ing as “the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of de­sign and crafts­man­ship. I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the ar­chi­tec­tural ap­proach you need in or­der to be­gin sketch­ing and cre­at­ing shoes.” The start­ing point of all of his de­signs, how­ever, is a lot more ab­stract: “I try to clear my mind and to cre­ate an emo­tion. Ev­ery­thing starts on an emo­tion.” Stand­ing at the cross­roads be­tween emo­tion and ar­chi­tec­ture, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that art has long been cen­tral to Ser­gio Rossi col­lec­tions, both un­der Ruggeri’s di­rec­tion but also be­fore it. “Art has of­ten been a source of in­spi­ra­tion,” he ex­plains, “be­cause of the colours, be­cause of the ex­pres­sive po­ten­tial of art­work.” For ex­am­ple, Ruggeri cre­ated a trib­ute col­lec­tion to fur­ni­ture de­signer Gabriella Crespi for Spring/Sum­mer 2014.

Fe­male em­pow­er­ment has al­ways been very much at the heart of the com­pany’s ethos, and its De­sign Di­rec­tor is keen to stay aligned with this when cre­at­ing shoes: “The Ser­gio Rossi woman is the DNA of the brand and I al­ways like to keep this in mind.” So, who is the Ser­gio Rossi woman? “When I joined the com­pany again, ev­ery­one was ask­ing me ‘who is your muse?’ It’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to de­fine and give a face to a muse,” states Ruggeri. How­ever, he speaks warmly about Ital­ian so­cialite Bianca Brandolini d’Adda, with whom he col­lab­o­rated for the Au­tumn/Win­ter 2015 col­lec­tion: “Bianca is the ex­pres­sion of how women have evolved, of women who are em­pow­ered and con­fi­dent about their power in so­ci­ety.”

Although women are the cen­tral fig­ures in the Ser­gio Rossi world, the la­bel also pro­duces a col­lec­tion for men, al­beit a smaller one. “We try to keep the two uni­verses sep­a­rate be­cause men and women are com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” Ruggeri ex­plains, “but, in a way, they are a cou­ple: men and women go to­gether. It’s the idea of ex­press­ing the other side of this uni­verse.” In his 15 years of work­ing in the in­dus­try, Ruggeri’s ex­pe­ri­ence may have pri­mar­ily been cen­tered on women’s shoes, but that doesn’t stop him from also en­joy­ing de­sign­ing men’s shoes.

Ul­ti­mately, Ruggeri is keen to stress just how im­por­tant shoes are, for men and women alike: “Shoes can de­fine your per­son­al­ity more than clothes do. They are the cush­ion of your body, they are part of you. It’s there­fore im­por­tant to find the per­fect shoe which al­lows you to move with con­fi­dence, to walk in a con­fi­dent way – and then you can be re­ally charm­ing, re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing.” The part­ing words of wis­dom from a master of shoe de­sign.

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