Francesco Russo Exits Sergio Rossi

The luxury footwear and accessories brand and its creative director have parted ways after four years.

Sergio Rossi's Mermaid jeweled ankle boot.

MILAN — Luxury footwear and accessories brand Sergio Rossi and creative director Francesco Russo have parted ways after four years.

“It was a joint decision after a very positive collaboration,” said the company’s president and chief executive officer Christophe Mélard in an exclusive interview. The last collection by Russo, who joined the brand in October 2008, was unveiled for fall 2013 during Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 21.

Mélard praised the designer’s ability to fine-tune and develop the Italian heritage, values and image of Sergio Rossi, which has more than 50 years of history. Russo helped define iconic products such as the Cachet sandal, the Mermaid jeweled ankle boot and the suede Chelsea boot.

While not directly succeeding Russo, Angelo Ruggeri will join the company as collection director on March 15, reporting to new chief marketing officer Susanna Nicoletti. Ruggeri has worked with Russo, his predecessor Edmundo Castillo, as well as Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford.

Mélard, who joined PPR-owned Sergio Rossi three-and-a-half years ago, underscored there will be no changes in positioning and that Sergio Rossi will be even more clearly defined as “a dangerously seductive and sensual” label. The company, which has 54 directly operated stores and 30 franchised units, is further consolidating its retail presence in key markets.

Since 2010, the brand’s store concept, modeled after an Italian apartment, has been implemented in at least 70 percent of the units, said Mélard. Upcoming openings include Las Vegas in April and franchised stores in Moscow’s Gum; in Baku, Azerbaijan; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Special collaborations are planned for department stores in the U.S., where the brand is available at locations such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Mélard said the company is also working on a bridal project and evening-specific shoes. In addition, to further boost online sales and create “a unique shopping experience,” Sergio Rossi is developing special collections for the Web in a partnership with Italian e-tailer Yoox. Sergio Rossi also plans to launch a capsule collection during furniture and design show Salone del Mobile in Milan with a yet-to-be-revealed “special partnership.”