Riccardo Sciutto shares how Sergio Rossi’s legacy lives on through his brand and how as CEO, he is working preserving the traditional techniques of the house.
Celebrating legacy and history has always been at the heart of Sergio Rossi. The brand was founded by Mr Sergio Rossi in the 1950s and he built his factory in San Mauro Pascoli, the same location it still stands at till today. Sergio Rossi quickly became known for his handmade shoes that captured Italian quality in their feminine designs and the designer found himself collaborating with brands such as Versace, Azzedine Alaia and Dolce & Gabbana. To this day a pair of Sergio Rossi shoes take a minimum of 120 different steps to make and over 14 hours. Each one is created by hand, in San Mauro Pascoli – the heart and soul of the house.
In 2016 Riccardo Sciutto joined Sergio Rossi as CEO. Sciutto was amazed by the heritage of the brand and embarked on a project that would celebrate the history of the house and bring the archive of Sergio Rossi to the forefront. The “Living Heritage project” which displays over 6,000 of some of the most iconic shoes from the brand’s history is now on display at the factory, inviting visitors on a journey through the legacy of the brand. Under Sciutto’s guidance, the iconic Sr1 shoe was also reinvented based on some of the founder’s original designs.
Sadly, earlier this year, the great Sergio Rossi passed away, but his legacy will continue thanks to the great preservation of the band and all its history. To discuss celebrating this legacy and why it is so important to continue the traditional methods of the shoemaker, we talk to CEO Riccardo Sciutto.
What can you tell us about the importance of “Made in Italy” and why do you think there is such a fascination with this concept globally?
“Made in Italy” is a creativity, unique know-how and inventiveness that has been recognised all around the world. Sergio Rossi was a pioneer in this and he built an innovative company that was a true point of reference for industry insiders as well as the final consumer. Today, with a long history to relay on know-how and heritage, the core belief remains in the idea that quality, care and craft must always be at the centre of the creative process. At Sergio Rossi with almost 70 years of history, we became a symbol of the Italian mastery recognised worldwide.
How important is it to you to preserve traditional crafts and handmade techniques at Sergio Rossi?
Heritage and tradition is everything! Sergio Rossi has an incredible heritage and a playful feminine touch. It is a truly iconic brand which represents Italian excellence at its nest. I have always had the greatest respect for the brand and when I joined as CEO my feeling was reignited. The key was to believe in the factory and revaluate it completely, as well as invest in our history and create our incredible archive, collecting over 6,000 pieces in just four years. We have almost 70 years of history and so we have started to look within that to find inspiration for the latest collections. It’s a unique balance that takes influence from our past but is always in line with the present and future. We are creating emotion and we must always keep in mind who the Sergio Rossi woman is and what are the things she wants and needs. We have a beautiful story and for this treasure, we must thank our founder, Sergio Rossi every day.
What do you think Italy offers that is unique?
Heritage, know-how, passion and great products. More than ever, it’s essential to be flexible to the changes in the market and that very quickly has proven crucial to navigate this critical situation.
What can you tell us about the values and DNA of Sergio Rossi?
At Sergio Rossi, it has always been crucial for us to stay true to the DNA of the brand and the vision of our founder. The values of the brand have always been very close to what a woman really needs and wants, with a product designed for the woman of today: dynamic, smart, sophisticated without taking herself too seriously. The shoe needs to be an accessory that can translate from day to night with ease and naturally became part of a woman’s closet. With experience, know-how and heritage, the core belief remains in the idea that quality; care and craft must always be at the centre of the creative process.
What is one thing you love about the legacy and history of Sergio Rossi?
The Sergio Rossi Factory in San Mauro Pascoli is the heart and soul of our company. Our industrial platform can develop, manufacture and produce all types of women and men’s luxury footwear, from flats to high heels. It’s a rare treasure where over 120 artisans create shoes entirely by hand! When I joined the company I felt very lucky to have found it. It’s a process similar to magic, where each shoe takes a minimum of 110 steps to be created. I love to call it the “Magic Kingdom, it’s where the magic has happened every day for almost 70 years.
Italy has suffered greatly throughout the global pandemic we are currently experiencing and Sergio Rossi has been incredibly supportive to the Italian community throughout all of this – when this crisis is over what do you expect to see from the recovery?
As a brand, in such unprecedented and dif cult times for the business and us all, we couldn’t be exempted to be part of the rebirth of our beautiful Italy. I’m very proud to have been one of the very first brands to give this inspiration and support, as I wanted to play an active part, starting from the city to which Sergio Rossi belongs and always looking positively towards the future. We are facing one of the worst situations of our time after the war.
and courage. More than courage, we must move with passionate audacity as in moments such the one we’re living today, we can reach great results but we will have to take risks.
We have seen the “Shoes Make a Difference” campaign that was launched during this time – how do you think this initiative has helped to bring the Sergio Rossi community together?
I believe in positive energy and the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Today more than ever, it is important to explore our humanity and respect for one another. We are being forced into a truly essential state where we must change our habits and move forward with a strong sense of civic duty as fundamental values in our lives. In this dif cult and unprecedented situation, it’s important that our brand community can look within and rediscover themselves and the simple joys life has to offer, as well as the respect for one another.
They say in every crisis there is always an opportunity – what is something positive that will come out of this situation?
I’m sure of that, and this is a motto I love to use! As a CEO and as a citizen I’m sure that from this critical situation we can create opportunities and generate a successful strategy that will make us stronger to move forward with innovation. I know it’s a hard time from a business point of view, but today is the moment to think about the new opportunities that this crisis put us in front. I believe the entire system will change dramatically so we need to be ready and adapt the process to a new model so that we can start up once the situation allows us to.
When all of this is over will you be changing any of the strategies of the brand and has it had an impact on how you will move forward?
I am always looking to create new opportunities against all odds from a business standpoint. We must be flexible to the changes in the market. At this moment we must act with courage and audacity to create a new business model, and finding solutions that will take us to a better tomorrow.
Do you think the crisis will impact the buying behaviour of customers?
It’s crucial to look after and protect the structure that we’ve successfully built by having a flexible strategy to quickly adapt to the rapid changes of the local markets. The fashion system will be different for sure, once we are back to work and I’m also expecting a different customer who will look for storytelling, quality and sustainability from brands. The entire system will change and we have to be ready to come back stronger than ever. We need to have the strength today to nd solutions to support each other, giving us hope and taking us towards a better tomorrow, while keeping in mind our story and celebrating our founder. This said, in times of difficulties people need certainties: for this reason, I’m sure our bestseller sr1 will be stronger than ever!
The brand recently lost its founder Sergio Rossi – how would you sum up what Mr Rossi did for shoemaking during his life? How will his legacy live on through the brand and in your mind?
Sergio Rossi was a master, and it is my great honour to have met him and present him the archive earlier this year. He loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman’s leg through her shoes. Our long and glorious history started from his incredible vision and we’ll remember his creativity forever. Now, more than before, we need to spread his amazing story and his dream. His vision and approach will remain our guide in the growth of the brand and the business.
What is the motto you are living by during this time?
My motto has always been “Think Heritage, Play Digital, Passionate Audacity” because only if we are true to our DNA can we nd an innovative way to live the future. Today, in the era we’re facing, the heritage and the know-how are the true pillars and I’m sure our factory and our long history will be once again the column of our future and this crisis is giving us the inventiveness and strength to create a new winning strategy.
Looking forward, what does the second half of 2020 hold for Sergio Rossi?
Today the global markets are so unpredictable that it has become increasingly more dif cult to make predictions. The Asian market was the rst to live this crisis and will be the first to recover so that will be interesting. It is crucial to work on local markets with passion and never be afraid to be daring and push innovative ideas to gain the trust of our customer.
Our goal is to create desire for our product across all demographics, working on a shopping experience that revolves around the needs of our clients and building a seamless Omnichannel retail experience. To do that I believe that we’ll need to adopt a vision that’s more related to local markets. We must play with the digital platforms and change the experience in-store so it is completely different. What I see for tomorrow is an iconic brand and a point of reference for the final consumer, who combines tradition and innovation masterfully thanks to the factory, the heart and soul of the brand. I also imagine increasingly advanced technology in the production line as well as a completely sustainable factory.
Growing up, what is your first memory of Italy?
My parents had their own business and so, since my first steps I’ve collected great memories of our Italian knowhow and made in Italy, appreciating the great work and devotion that’s behind it! A beautiful memory is me as a child walking between my mother’s fabrics and my dad’s closet. For sure this generated in me huge respect for our identity that I’ve brought with me to Sergio Rossi. We must look at our past to create a successful future.
Where in Italy do you like to travel to relax?
I love to explore my beautiful country, here you can admire the infinity of the mountains and the depth of the sea, you can feel the energy and art of our beautiful rich cities that are the very treasure of our culture, that made us so well know all around the world. And of course, I love to travel by car and visit my parents that today are far away from me exploring our bella Italia; such a gem we can experience in our own country.
Can you share with us any Italian traditions that you to this day continue with your family and friends?
For sure sharing and the art of convivio (dining together)! It’s such an Italian tradition that I love to share with my guests too even when I’m travelling aboard.
How would you describe Italy in one sentence?
Beautiful and passionate.