Gianvito Rossi on Why It Takes Confidence to Wear a Simple Shoe

·Senior Editor

Gianvito Rossi, whose elegant designs have made him the sophisticated women’s shoe designer of choice. Photo: Courtesy of Gianvito Rossi.

Modernist architect Mies van der Rohe famously popularized the phrase “less is more.” He was talking about buildings, of course, but his maxim also aptly describes the spirit behind Gianvito Rossi’s designs. In just the few years since he began his own brand, Rossi, who is the son of legendary designer Sergio Rossi, has quickly become become the luxury shoe designer of choice for a certain kind of woman — successful, sophisticated, and confident enough to wear an understated shoe.

It may sound pretentious to compare a shoe designer to a Modernist architect, but both men approach their work through the same lens, dispensing with anything saccharine, baroque, or overly ornate; instead favoring a simplicity of form that approaches a rational ideal of beauty. For van der Rohe, that meant stark masterpieces of glass and steel. For Rossi, shoes are distilled to their essence, beautifully balanced and free of the excess that characterizes some women’s footwear.

We sat down with the designer in his Milan showroom, just days after he debuted his forthcoming spring 2016 collection to a buzzing room of buyers and press (we ran into Carine Roitfeld on the way in). Rossi in person is unassuming and gracious, modest to the point of occasional self-effacement, but clearly passionate about beauty, his process, and the women for whom he designs. And his customers are repaying him with a fervor that seems to surprise Rossi himself — but we can’t say we share his surprise.

A design from Gianvito Rossi’s spring 2016 collection, debuted this week in Milan. Photo: Courtesy of Gianvito Rossi.

Yahoo Style: You come from a legacy of wonderful design – what made you want to begin your own brand?

Gianvito Rossi: “I grew up among shoes, so it had always been part of my life. But when I terminated my relationship with my previous company, I found myself for the first time in my life without shoes. When you’re so used to having something, it’s not easy to understand its importance to you. The day you miss it, you realize – that was my life. It was my way to speak.”

Do you have a muse in mind when you design?

“When I started my line, I wanted to stay focused on a very precise aesthetic — elegant, modern, feminine with a touch of transgression. One of my first seasons, Carine [Roitfeld] came, and liked what she saw, and that was very important for me. She supported me since the early times, and I am forever grateful.”

Your shoes have a timeless quality — do you see yourself as responding to trends, or is that not a part of your process?

“No, it’s absolutely part of my process, because for me, the shoe is not just an object itself. It only lives on a woman, and should be a complement to her style, her silhouette. Sometimes you have a very visible accessory that is more evident than the woman, but you get bored immediately of that. I try to make something that is meant for the woman, that is pure, simple, uncomplicated. If you can make that, it will never be boring.”

I think it takes a confident woman to wear your shoes.

“It’s a shoe for a confident woman that doesn’t need to be labeled.”

An embroidered canvas shoe from Gianvito Rossi’s spring 2016 collection. Photo: Courtesy of Gianvito Rossi.

What, for you, is the difference between a shoe that’s elegant, and one that’s not?

“I make shoes that I would want the woman that is with me to wear. It’s not just a flashy thing just to catch your attention — I don’t think this is quality in terms of design. I design something that’s real. Which doesn’t mean it should be conventional. It’s a difficult balance, but I try to make something original, but wearable. To me, fancy is the easiest thing.”

But elegant and timeless is hard.

“[Laughing] Well, that may be a bit much. But when you get the balance right, that is my satisfaction, my reward.”

Who is the Gianvito Rossi woman?

“My wife, to me, is part of that — I always talk to her, show her things, ask if she would wear it.

So your wife consults on your designs?

“Always — now my daughter too, she’s 18. They say yes to this or no to this.”

And do you listen?

“Yes!”

You’re known for making single-sole shoes. Would you ever make a platform?

“I have made platforms, and I do like them, but for me they’re for a more easy, casual day situation. I don’t like when you combine a platform with a stiletto — I don’t think it’s an elegant proportion. But for day, a platform or a wedge, it’s nice. Nothing against these.”

What, for you, is the ultimate sign that your shoes are resonating with women?

“I love when I go to my stores or an event and seeing the reaction of the customers — when she puts it on and smiles, and she’s happy. That’s the best part. And when they tell me they gets compliments on their shoes, from other women, but also from men — this is not so easy, since men are very picky.”

Gianvito Rossi in his Milan studio. Photo: Courtesy of Gianvito Rossi.

Do you consider yourself a quintessentially Italian designer?

“I think it’s important for me think in a modern way, but I do love that, in our country’s history there’s such a strong tradition of beauty and quality. It is not enough for us to have a nice concept — it’s the way you do it which is magic. So if there is something very Italian about me, it’s that I’m trying to make something beautiful but with great quality.”

What do you see for the future of your brand?

“For now I’m trying to run to keep up, because it’s going so well! We have four collections a year, and it’s a lot, but the demand is very strong, and we’re grateful and just rushing to keep the pace.”

I think things will continue to go well.

“Thank you for your wish.”