An award-winning and experienced shoe designer for some of the leading labels in the fashion world, Francesco Russo is well-known for his innovative creations and exquisite taste. In 2013, Francesco established his eponymous brand and opened his boutique in Paris. Soon after that, he reached beyond the scope of the idea of “collection” by launching a bespoke programme exclusively in Hong Kong. STYLE takes a look into every step that he took.
Q: What did you get from the experience of working for the leading luxury brands and how did it inspire you to go solo?
A: Who I am today owes to the experience I had in my past. Any collaboration that I had so far in my journey as a designer is reflected radically in what I know and what I am today. We are what we live and we have what we experience in life. What we have today are the results of the past years and the exchanges we had. I [acquired] the knowledge of shoe-making, thanks to all the people I have worked with in the industry in the last 20 years.
Then I got to a point where I was ready to express what my beliefs in terms of luxury, products and shoe-making with my own brand, my own journey and my own story. During my last experience with Sergio Rossi, I was the one at the front to explain the design and to express the value and what my beliefs were. So after my last collaboration, I started to have the urge to express all those values that are personal. There will be no compromise in terms of style. Once I had made up my mind, making the decision of creating my own brand was not difficult. It was very natural to start.
Q: What are the differences between being an in-house designer and the founder of your own brand?
A: It was very comfortable to work in-house for brands because I had a stable job and salary. Everything was connected to a specific part of my job, which was designing shoes. I didn’t have to take care of the things that were not necessarily what I loved. And I was the king of the world because I worked for the brand that makes a lot of money and in turn benefits the suppliers. Setting up my own brand was difficult. My project was very specific and exclusive. It didn’t necessarily mean number and money at the beginning. It was something about passion. It was quite difficult to be able to defend such a point of view and find the right support and going from being very spoiled to being alone. It was a difficult journey. The difference is not about being free. It is about what you express. When you work with other brands, you work on a basis – the heritage and the image of that brand. It is like the difference of being a writer and a translator. You write a book or translate a book. So when you work with a brand, you take a story and translate it into your language. But the story is already there. When you have your own brand, it all starts from zero. It is your story, your vision and your language. Having my own brand is like writing a story on a blank page. It all belongs to you.
Q: What is the idea of the new made-to-order programme for women’s footwear amid the ever-changing fashion trend?
A: I have a line which represents my vision, but I also respect the individuality of every person. So that is why I launched my brand in my store. The client can either purchase the collection that represents the way I conceive, or order a bespoke model. In Paris I have clients that are old and I never put the works into my collection because it is not what I feel or what I do, but I allow the customers to find their own identity within our collection. That is why the bespoke programme came along, which is to bring what we do in Paris or the service we give in Paris – respecting the personality of each individual – worldwide. So within the Francesco Russo collection and the Francesco Russo ready-to-wear, there are main lines of colours and materials. But within our classics, you can express yourself by having different colour combinations that to suit the shoes to your personality. That is what a bespoke or a made-to-order product means to me, which is to allow the client to do something different from what the brand is.
Style means specific personality within the product. Fashion is not about trend. The philosophy and taste stays the same. Season by season there are different influences on the collection, but it is the same brand. It is not rejecting every six months of what has been done previously. My collection stands more to that idea of style. Call it classics, call it timeless, and call it what you want but something that doesn’t change every six months. Bespoke shoes arrive six weeks after the order, but the shoes will stay forever.
Q: How do you see the growing Chinese luxury market and the taste of the customers?
A: China is the future. It is a new market. There are new clients and new passion of fashion. Globalisation doesn’t only mean exchange of products but also exchange of culture and having the possibility to get access to all those different cultures. For me, it is a natural way to put the brand in a contemporary perspective. One thing for me is crucial, which is also one of the reasons why I decided to do my own brand. Nowadays, globalisation means having access to different cultures ... my brand has its specific aesthetics and values and I will not allow these to change. There is specificity of each country due to the weather or the climate. I will keep this in mind when I do my collection, not because there is a certain market that has a different sense of aesthetics so that I need to adjust my collection or my brand or who I am. The Francesco Russo identity will be the same anywhere. I am not looking for work to be liked by everyone. There will be people who love my shoes or those who hate my shoes but that is totally ok. Concerning the aesthetic of Asians, I think out of the box. Asia is like Europe or America; there are different people and different tastes. I am not trying to please everyone and lose who I am.
Q: How would you define your creations in one sentence?
A: Timeless, seductive pieces. I emphasise the concept of style, timelessness and something that stays for a long time.