It’s definitely given us the freedom to be more creative and experiment with design and fashion in many ways that was harder to do before. There’s been a lot of positive change in the industry within the region that’s been very gratifying to witness, especially as designers who are always on the lookout for creating something new, the regions become more open minded and accepting to creativity today than ever before which has given us an even bigger platform to express our own growth and our own ideas with every new collection.
TL: Careful craftsmanship has become part of your DNA, was this something you learned working for other brands or was it always innate in you?
FR: The choice of expressing craft and high quality product is a consequence that comes exactly from today’s luxury world. I do believe that luxury is also about something not over exposed. Time is also a key element for making well-made and refined products. Shoes especially are objects that need a lot of trial and fine tuning before being perfectly achieved.
In today’s world there is a speed that doesn’t always allow that. I wanted to find my own space, my own timing and be able to express through my design what I’ve been able to learn in the past twenty years working for luxury brands. My collection is of course about a specific design but it’s also a non-stop research for new technical challenge to the tradition of the shoe making.
Your heels shape is instantly recognisable. How did you find the magic pivot point between super sexy and still so wearable?
To me beauty with no comfort does not exist, they are both fundamental. Whether it’s for technical functions, like sneakers, or simply to enhance the silhouette and magnify the posture, like shoes with heels, shoes have a specific function. And in both cases, comfort is the winning element. There is nothing worse than seeing a magnificent woman, well dressed but with great difficulty walking because she wears uncomfortable or too high shoes.
This is not the image of a woman who, since I was a child, has made me dream of being able to work with this fantastic and mysterious object, and be part of the transformation from cocoon to butterfly, that the shoe with heel, if comfortable and well built, it is able to make.
Was it always a dream to launch your own line and how did you know it was the right time?
I’ve been thinking for a long time before launching my own Brand. The decision came along after my experience as Creative Director with Sergio Rossi. I needed to have a corner to express my own feelings and my own credo about shoe making and shoe design. In today’s fashion world it is quite challenging to defend your own belief and integrity when there are many people and many “heads” involved. The timing was also right for me because I felt ready and confident of my own skills.
Brand wise, how easy was it to define the overarching pillars of Francesco Russo and what are they?
I always knew that for my own collection the aim was to make real shoes. By this, I mean that products are not only the expression of design but also a high crafted content with a strong attention to construction and comfort. This is something you learn with time and experience.
I wouldn’t have been able to do the products I offer today if I had launched my Brand twenty years ago. In term of style, I knew that I didn’t want to create something fashionable but more an expression of style, something timeless that would escape the idea of trends.
Since you launched the brand, what to date has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome and how did you achieve that?
Working as consultant for other companies allows you to focus on your own skills and talent and to reflect this to your team. Having your own brand is an everyday challenge since it makes you become an entrepreneur with a 360° involvement. In all this, the biggest challenge has probably been to build a strong team.
With all the elements it takes to build a brand, what have you found is the secret to finding the ever elusive lifestyle balance and do you ever disconnect?
I come from a very profound education that has always protected me from losing myself and staying close to the values that my parents passed down to me. Disconnection is fundamental for my balance and my creativity to be recharged.
What do your first 30 mins look like in the morning/ do you have any rituals which set your day and the last 30 mins before bed?
My morning ritual consists of a daily training with my coach in Paris, or via Skype in order to start the day with the best energy. I usually spend my last 30 minutes , or even more, before bed, watching movies and relaxing with my two dogs.
Which destinations have provided the most surprising inspiration/ sourcing locations for you?
There are many destinations that inspired me, each of them in a special and different way. I could mention Istanbul for the melting pot culture in terms of architecture and culture, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo for the energy and beauty of the people.
What do you feel is real luxury to today’s global woman?
To me, luxury has always represented something to dream for, the pursuit of beauty, craftsmanship and exclusivity. We don’t need luxury to survive, it could just be a pleasure and if fed by dreams it becomes happiness.
Do you have a particular creative process you follow from concept to completion for each of your designs?
I normally do not try to force the creative process by looking for something specific to inspire me. I prefer to have a more organic approach and feel the moment by keeping my eyes and my heart wide open to absorb what is around me. Our brain is able to stock so many millions of information that just by opening it our fantasy starts flying.
I normally start designing what at that present moment I most like. Then it becomes an organic process, one door opens a new door and letting yourself go with the flow you reach the point. Also, I am not trying to reinvent myself or the idea of the shoes. I am mostly challenged by the technical limits of the traditional shoemaking and trying to push them forward.
If you had to choose one silhouette that is perpetually popular season after season with clients, which would it be and why?
A black leather Pump. An evergreen style that can be worn both during the day and the evening.
Do you notice a difference in buying habits and tastes across the globe?
I would say that there are different habits and functions across the globe, which mostly depend on the weather or on the way of living in a specific place. Taste changes as it changes from person to person in the same country, so when you have an audience that choose a brand for its aesthetics that is quite global.
How does your aesthetic translate into your home and interior pieces?
I believe that when you have an aesthetic, this will be naturally connected to everything you do or make. My houses are decorated with a mix of traditional and modern design with a personal touch: my Parisian apartment is very French but with a touch of Italian mid-century design, my ‘700s Masseria in Puglia is very rustic and it’s decorated with local handcrafted pieces only, my home in Switzerland is very clean and modern.
If you could save one sentimental piece from your home or your office, what would it be and why?
I used to be very sentimental with objects. Since I started to live in four different houses, my attachment to them has decreased more and more trying to keep as little as possible.
What can we look forward to seeing more of in 2019 from Francesco Russo?
An ongoing research on new classics, new silhouettes to enrich the evergreen shoe wardrobe that I wish a woman would have.