Francesco Russo is well on his way to becoming one of the most recognized shoe designers in the industry. While millions of women around the globe wear the iconic YSL Tribute platforms he designed while working at the French fashion house, very few know his name – but that’s all about to change. Stepping out on his own in 2013, Russo has maintained a low-key, yet luxury profile in the world of shoes. That is, until Victoria Beckham discovered his wares a few weeks ago and promptly ordered every single pair he had in her size. Every. Single. Pair. She then headed to Hong Kong for a retail trip where she was spotted multiple times in his creations. Other devoted fans include Dakota Johnson and Olivia Palermo.
Russo takes the craft of shoemaking to an artistic level, drilling deep into the architectural details that make the construction of the shoe feel absolutely seamless, like a well-crafted piece of couture, with thousands of tiny details contributing to a sumptuous fit. Speaking of couture, Russo allows clients to pick materials from a sublime palette of Italian leathers and exotic skins for a truly custom shoe to call their own.
When we sat with Russo at Chateau Marmont a few weeks ago, he eagerly pulled out both a last and a heel to show us the construction of his signature stiletto, and the toe tips he installs on every pair to save the delicate leather soles from wear. He also explained how the high “collar” on his signature pump is created. His shoes are complex and expertly built, using innovative techniques to build strength, as well as a real lightness in each shoe, making them a wonder to put on, as well as to show off.
Inside a cozy Chateau bungalow in the Hollywood Hills, we got the deets on this next soon-to-be household shoe name.
Pret-a-Reporter: How exactly did Victoria Beckham discover your shoes?
Francesco Russo: It was by accident – a very good friend of mine had just bought a pair onmytheresa.com and the moment she received the shoes and put them on, Victoria went in her office (because they work together at Victoria’s company), and she tried them, fell in love and that’s how it started.
Why do you think people like Victoria resonate with your shoes?
Obviously, I can’t say I know her mind, but Victoria is someone who knows about craftsmanship, her own collection has an impeccable focus on the highest quality of craftsmanship and design. So I think she found in our product all those key elements that make a shoe not only beautiful and desirable but extremely comfortable, because at the end of the day she is a businesswoman who works, she has four kids, so of course shoes that are not just beautiful but also must have a gorgeous fit — this was a key element.
What other celebrities are fans of your shoes?
Dakota Johnson, she loved the classicism of the brand — the D’orsay and the hair ankle sandal were her favorites. And Olivia Palermo, who is a friend, someone I respect very much, a beautiful lady, the one she fell totally in love with which is the one I call the Mohawk sandal — it has a Mohawk at the back. And also our classic pump with the high back — our take on the stiletto — the same one Victoria loved.
When did you become obsessed with shoes?
Since I was very little, I’ve been fascinated with the physiological and psychological reaction that women have when they wear high heels. My mother was a seamstress and I would see the transformation when her clients put on their dresses with heels. It is something that has always intrigued me. I have I tried to find the answer to the question of what is it about high heels by wearing high heels myself. But so far I still don’t have the answer because I think it is something that goes through the emotional side of the brain — we can’t know exactly what happens.
What is your favorite pair of shoes to wear?
A classic pump.
I have my own size — a 44 last and heel for my own shoes.
Wait, do you test out every one of your shoes?
No, not every one because the men’s fit is different — but I do wear the classic pump!
And for everyday wear?
The Commes De Garcon Jack Purcell edition — I basically wear them 95 percent of the time. When I’m not in a pump, I’m in a Jack Purcell! I do wear classic men’s styles too though, Church and John Lobb sometimes, but the Jack Purcell is so comfortable, like a black pump for girls.
Do you ever make flats?
I make what I call the mini-kitten which is two and a half centimeters — like ballerina with a kitten. I put a bit of PVC at the toe-box to make it very sexy. It is the mini-kitten!