Footwear Legend: Sergio Rossi

From World War II recovery to 21st century e-commerce, Sergio Rossi was a fixture in Italian luxury footwear

Late last week, famed footwear designer Sergio Rossi passed away from complications of COVID-19. He was 84 years old, and while not a household name, he helped cultivate some of Italy’s most respected ready-to-wear designers. Through collaborations early in their careers, he worked with the likes of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Gianni Versace, and Azzedine AlaÏa. Today, his eponymous line is still highly-regarded in the footwear industry, creating covetable styles with a legacy.

Humble Origins

After the second World War, Sergio Rossi and his brother sold shoes door-to-door while the country was recovering and rebuilding its economy. By 1968, after having committed to the family business, Rossi launched his own line of high-end shoes, starting with the Opanca sandal. At the time, it was an avant-garde design with a leather sole that curved up and around the foot, thereby cradling it.

Sergio Rossi silver metallic pumps stilettos godiva steel

Throughout the following decades, Sergio Rossi worked as a close collaborator and supporter of fledgling fashion talents like Gianni Versace and the Dolce & Gabbana duo to design footwear that matched their outlandish clothing designs.

In 1999, Rossi sold a controlling stake of his brand to the Gucci Group and subsequently retired. The label went on to employ as creative director a handful of names you probably know now thanks to their own eponymous brands: Brian Atwood, Edmundo Castillo, and Francesco Russo.

shop heron preston on italistIconic Styles

Though the Sergio Rossi name comes with it many iconic styles from over the years, two are the most timeless and distinctive: the Godiva and the SR1—the former a classic stiletto pump and the latter, a more recent release (2017) that embodied the founder’s classical and supremely ladylike aesthetic.

Sergio Rossi iconic footwear luxury heels sandals made in Italy

According to Rossi’s obituary in the New York Times, “…each Sergio Rossi shoe was famous for requiring 120 steps and 14 hours to make,” which may be why he was held in similar regard to other famed and iconic shoe designers like Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo.

Another article, this one in Footwear News, includes quotes regarding Rossi’s passing from his peers and contemporaries, including Amina Muaddi, Cesare Casadei, and Giuseppe Zanotti.

Gianvito Rossi

Sergio Rossi’s son Gianvito joined the family business before it was sold to Kering Group in 1999, thereafter launching his own label and carrying forth the family tradition.

His line, likewise a respected staple name in high-end footwear, debuted in 2006 and has stood alongside the senior Rossi’s designs as modern classics, appropriate for everything from daily work wear to formal occasions and tropical vacations.

gianvito rossi strappy sandal styles made in italy luxury footwear

The Gianvito Rossi Plexi Pump is a refreshed take on the Godiva Pump, made with various colors of suede, patent, or metallic leather and clear PVC. Due to its pliable nature, the clear plastic molds better to the foot after warming and is ultimately more comfortable for the wearer. Because it comes in a range of colors and leathers, it’s a ‘seasonless’ design that works in the cold or the heat.

gianvito rossi plexi pump shoe heel made in italy luxury footwear

Both Sergio Rossi and Gianvito Rossi are important names to know in luxury footwear, and are some of our consistently sought after designers on italist.

We’re saddened to hear of Sergio Rossi’s passing, especially during this particularly difficult time in general. But, it’s comforting to know that his design legacy will live on and his tradition of elegant, feminine footwear continues through his son’s work and brand.

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Discover more names to know in footwear: Malone Souliers, BY FAR, John Lobb, and Maison Margiela Tabi.

Shop italist for up to 40% off on over 200,000 up-to-the-minute luxury fashions for women, men, and kids from leading brands like Golden GooseFendiGucciMiu Miu, and many more—direct from Italy’s finest boutiques to your door.


About the Author

Alex English is the Head of Content Marketing at, building on a lifelong passion for fashion and luxury. After publishing a lifestyle blog for nearly ten years and obtaining an MBA in Milan at SDA Bocconi, one of Europe’s top business schools, he joined the italist team in 2019. His work since then has focused on upper-funnel messaging, brand storytelling, establishing italist as a thought leader in the space, and enriching the customer experience on the platform. Find him on LinkedIn.