A well-reputed entrepreneur in the San Mauro Pascoli area, a footwear manufacturing hub in the Emilia Romagna region, which is also home to Sergio Rossi and Giuseppe Zanotti, among others, Casadei established the namesake brand in 1958 together with his wife Flora and brothers Rino and Nando.
Casadei was instrumental in riding the wave of Italy’s post-World War II burgeoning economy. Jump-started as a small artisanal workshop, the company originally produced affordable heeled sandals catering to tourists visiting the seaside region. It soon introduced more styles, including platforms inspired by the Swinging ’60s in London and plateau pumps or penny loafers.
The label started exporting his goods toward the end of the ’60s and into the ’70s to Germany, Japan and the U.S., and gained popularity in the Middle East in the ’80s. It opened its first flagship in Brussels in 1977.
At one time or another, Casadei gainfully employed Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti.
In an interview with WWD earlier this year, his son, Cesare Casadei, who joined the family company in 1994 and has held the role of creative director ever since, said his father was always a guiding light, even after he retired, and recalled consulting him before introducing the signature Blade heel in 2012, for example.
A point of reference for the family, he was readying Christmas celebrations, and people close to the family said his death was unexpected.
In 2000, Casadei became a target for then acquisition-hungry Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli, a year after gaining controlling stakes in Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Church and Fendi. Around that time, Casadei also produced some of Jil Sander’s women’s footwear in addition to its namesake line.
The acquisition never materialized and came at a time when the San Mauro Pascoli hub was targeted by luxury groups, with Sergio Rossi acquired by Gucci and Aeffe taking over Pollini.
The neighboring Sergio Rossi company said in a note that “a great Maestro has left us today. [He was] an innovative businessman and a great person. Riccardo Sciutto, Sergio Rossi Group chief executive officer, together with the entire Sergio Rossi team would like to express their sincere condolences to his family and to all Casadei’s employees.”
“I shared a long-standing job relationship and friendship with Mr. Casadei,” said Zanotti. “He’s been a mentor especially in the early days of my career and I will be grateful and think highly of him forever,” he added.
Casadei is survived by his son Cesare and niece Arianna Casadei, who helm the family business, as well as by his daughter Cinzia, sister Silvana, nephews and a great niece.
A funeral service will take place Nov. 24 at the parish church of San Mauro Pascoli, Italy.