There is such a fine line between a successful shoe design rising to become a house signature or being washed over by fast and furious It shoe fame. Italian cobbler Francesco Russo knows both tales.
The Pulia-born creative, who established his own eponymous luxury shoe brand in 2013, honed his craft at Costume National and Miu Miu in Milan before moving to Paris to Yves Saint Laurent, where he created the infamous Tribute sandal and Cage boot during Stefano Pilati’s tenure, before joining Sergio Rossi as creative director.
For his own maison, Russo’s sensual signature pertains to the elongated heel-piece of his pumps and sandals – his way of connecting the shoe with the curve of the leg – creating a striking silhouette from behind. His other unifying characteristic is the subtle waxing he gives his leathers, which range from tiger snake to crocodile and lizard that he favours in subtle off-shades of olive, muted cobalt, rust and mustard. ‘If you see the shoes there is a little shine on them,’ he says, visiting London for the day. ‘It’s exactly like they finish on men’s shoes: I wouldn’t say vintage looking, but with nuances and this is because we do it by hand.’
All of Russo’s shoes are made in his atelier in Italy, including the bespoke commissions he takes from his Paris atelier/store on rue de Valois. Now Russo is rolling out this 6-week made-to-order service in London with Harvey Nichols. Eleven styles will be offered in either leather or croc with the option of twenty colourways: ‘I think it’s important that whenever the brand moves around the world we carry the atelier philosophy with us and this means giving the service we are able to give in Paris,’ he says.
‘It’s art with a function,’ he adds of his craft, ‘and that function is to make people dream because fashion is about doing things that are not crucial, we are not doing things that are fundamental for people. Food is, water is, shoes are not crucial so the only reason why people buy them is because they have this emotional feeling towards them.’ Offering a bespoke service where clients can touch and feel his luxurious components is quite naturally the next step to nurture this notion.