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.
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.