Sergio Rossi, Italian Shoemaker and Ready-to-Wear Ally, Dies at 84

Sergio Rossi, Italian Shoemaker and Ready-to-Wear Ally, Dies at 84

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

As a teenager, Sergio Rossi and his brother, the sons of a bespoke shoemaker, would travel up and down the Italian Riviera selling shoes in the years after World War II, as the country was rebuilding.

Mr. Rossi fully joined the family business in the 1950s and by 1968 had introduced a namesake line, becoming one of the first major figures in the Italian footwear industry

Mr. Rossi died on Thursday in Cesena, Italy at 84. The cause was coronavirus, a spokeswoman for the company that carries his name said.

Known for his perfectly balanced, albeit often spindly, heels, and styles such as the Opanca sandal, with a sole that curved up the sides to blend in with the foot, and his signature Godiva stiletto, Mr. Rossi was part of the generation of Italian artisans who emerged after World War II determined to take the country’s expertise in leatherwork and accessories from local family businesses to the world.

He was also among the first footwear specialists to lend his talents to ready-to-wear designers, collaborating with names such as Versace and Dolce & Gabbana to create the footwear for their collections. Each Sergio Rossi shoe was famous for requiring 120 steps and 14 hours to make.

In a video post on Facebook on Friday, Mayor Luciana Garbuglia of San Mauro Pascoli, an Italian shoemaking center near Cesena on the Adriatic coast where Mr. Rossi was born and lived, noted that Mr. Rossi had opened a production facility in the town in 1951 that has became a major source of jobs.

Mr. Rossi was born in 1935 and learned his trade from his father.

As a major designer, he reached global prominence in the 1970s in part through his work with the upstart designer Gianni Versace. The way Mr. Rossi’s sensuous heels complemented Mr. Versace’s clothes elevated shoes to an integral part of a look, as opposed to an afterthought.

Mr. Rossi, who opened his first store in San Mauro in 1980, also worked with Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaïa in the 1980s and ’90s. Over the next two decades he continued to expand in Europe and America, and his son, Gianvito, came to work at his side.

In 1999, during the flurry of consolidation among fashion brands that laid the groundwork for the modern luxury industry and also reflected how important shoes had become to the sector, Gucci Group (later Kering), bought the brand for approximately $96.2 million; Mr. Rossi remained as chairman and design director, though both he and his son, who now has his own eponymous line, later left the business.

Kering sold it in 2015 to the private equity company Investindustrial, which relaunched Sergio Rossi the following 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 his shoes,” Richard Sciutto, the shoe company’s chief executive, said in an Instagram post commemorating the founder.

The company has preserved his legacy with an archive of sketches and documents in their San Mauro facility, along with shoes, lasts and other accessories. Thus far, it has 6,000 items.

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