Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life.
There must be a secret link between the Southern Italian region of Puglia (Apulia) and fashion. The stiletto heel of the Italian boot has originated stylists such as Anna Dello Russo; costume designers such as the Oscar nominee Antonella Cannarozzi; and fashion designers such as Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy) and Ennio Capasa (Costume National). Puglia is also the region where shoe designer Francesco Russo comes from.
Russo was born in 1974, and started his career during the Nineties in Milan. After working for Costume National and Miu Miu, Francesco was called to Paris, where he still resides. He started creating shoes for Yves Saint Laurent, under the direction of Stefano Pilati, just before the Hedi Slimane era. Namely, just before the House dropped the Yves, turning the name of the designer into the simple surname, Saint Laurent: a brand.
It is for his unique and strong vision that Russo was appointed as creative director of Sergio Rossi in 2008. Under Russo’s pencil the brand reached international status and global recognition. Russo’s shoes stand out from a crowd of anonymity because of the unique mix of femininity and edginess. The balance between the two is constantly maintained, and neither of them overwhelms the other. In this, Russo is reminiscent of some Salvatore Ferragamo wedges created during the Fourties, both elegant and subversive at once.
Francesco Russo’s creative direction at Sergio Rossi ended in 2013. This followed a memorable collection of shoes that were characterised by woven black and white stripes of leather and sophisticated metallic heels, which were copied by many other brands, including Zara. In the same year the designer decided to go solo opening his eponymous label.
The strategy chosen by Russo for his new brand looks back to the very origins of modern fashion as a practice of elegance and exclusivity. His pieces tend to be unique, all made with the finest materials, with an obsessive attention to manufacture, and a sophistication. In fact, they cannot be easily replicated.
Russo has only one boutique in Paris and a wholesaler in New York, on Fifth Avenue, obviously. It might seem that Russo is thinking small, but what is happening is quite the opposite. Russo is trying to follow his own taste, creating classic pieces that challenge the idea of “trends”. With his twenty years of experience in the fashion world, he knows that timelessness is a key word for success when accompanied by craftsmanship and a hint of constant, quiet subversion.
If, as noted by Dana Thomas in her book, titled Deluxe (2007), the fashion business today is vulnerable to economic downturns, it is because the industry has radically changed. From being a successful, niche business, fashion turned into a global phenomenon dependent on the mid-market. The middle classes, however, have been the major victims of the 2008 credit crunch. No wonder then that the most successful brands in the last decade have been the “exclusive” ones. Bottega Veneta is the perfect example of this. Francesco Russo learned this lesson and created a label for the few wealthy ladies in search of elegance, status and beauty.
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