There was a time you’d have to wait for a glass slipper to ﬁt for all your dreams to come true. In the fashion world, the presentday version comes in the form of an invitation to the Sergio Rossi factory in San Mauro Pascoli, in the Italian coastal region of Emilia-Romagna, to have a hand in making your own. The region boasts a rich shoemaking heritage, with not just Sergio Rossi but also Casadei, Giuseppe Zanotti Design, and Gianvito Rossi all choosing to base their manufacturing in the village, leading to a highly skilled workforce in the ﬁeld of luxury footwear, sometimes spanning generations. In fact, the late Sergio Rossi was himself the son of a shoemaker, as is his son Gianvito. Of course, every fable needs a charming prince, and Riccardo Sciutto, who was appointed CEO of the Sergio Rossi Group in April 2016, is perfectly cast. “When I arrived at Sergio Rossi, I found myself in front of a Sleeping Beauty,” he recalls. “The factory represented a global leader in the Made in Italy industry and was in need of expressing its true potential.” A secret visit to the premises one weekend led to his new vision to make the process the priority – one I was about to experience – from the handmade lasts to the authentic Italian craftsmanship. Riccardo launched The Living Heritage Project in 2017, which saw the creation of a physical archive that has so far seen more than 3,250 models restored, photographed, stored and photographed, bringing the number of shoes in the archive to 4,500. The painstaking digitisation of the archive will ensure it lives on and continues to be accessible to all.
An edit of the most covetable 600 are found in the factory, for those lucky enough to be invited to take glimpse into the kingdom. As you enter, The Gallery of Lasts pays tribute to Sergio Rossi’s most iconic designs, and once inside The Living Archive Room, you’re entranced by the platform boots, bejewelled sandals and leather mules from the early ’60s to 2004 that have stood the test of time and are just as relevant today. A peek inside the drawers below reveal even more treasures, including shoes made for the Versace runway and an endless rainbow of options for crystallised heels. Another articulation of the new era of Sergio Rossi is that modern art surrounds you from the burnished gold Billdor by Davide Allieri greeting employees and visitors from afar to Vela Al Terzo (arvëdas) by Ettore Favini a leather sail that ﬂoats above the lobby, and the tongue-in-cheek pink neon sign above the reception desk called Signature by Vedovamazzei, with the phone number of the factory.
Somewhat serendipitously, Sergio Rossi made 30 pairs of shoes for Beyoncé’s On The Run II Tour in 2018, while Katy Perry revived models from the archive for her Witness: The Tour in 2017. Other celebrity fans include Suki Waterhouse, Penélope Cruz and Rita Ora, but should you not have Sergio Rossi on speed-dial, Riccardo’s created sr1 – an opportunity to customise your very own sneakers and loafers online in a choice of colours, materials, and lettering, and even pick the heel height of your pumps, with a ﬁve- to sixweek turnaround. You can even have a 360-degree preview of your handiwork before you buy, thanks to Sergio Rossi’s website wizardry, the result of Riccardo’s “think heritage, play digital” manifesto. In the pristine surroundings of the factory ﬂoor, store rooms are piled high with rolls of leather and suede just waiting to be made into over-theknee boots for Beyoncé, and magazine pages of celebrities wearing Sergio Rossi are pinned to the wall, showing each shoemaker the culmination of their creations. As soon as I donned my monogrammed white lab coat and protective glasses and picked up a hammer, suddenly the sr1 customisation service seemed like a better idea. Supervised by skilled craftsmen who’d dedicated decades to the art of shoemaking, I clumsily pulled at the cracked metallic leather of my pumps around the last with pliers, gently guided by the far defter digits of the artisans, before gluing it into place, then watching my efforts being whisked away into far more expert hands for “ﬁnishing” – which was almost certainly code for having a professional make me a new pair. To say it’s harder than it looks is an understatement. The factory makes 1,500 pairs of shoes per day; I wonder whether they counted mine? So in this fairy tale, Cinderella – with the help of generations of Italian artisans – made her own silver leather sr Milano pumps. And as for the Sergio Rossi story? The legend continues…
Photos: Getty Images and courtesy of Sergio Rossi