MILAN — Giacomo Corsi, who developed Ruffo into a state-of-the-art leather manufacturer and sought to pair his family’s company with several of the most creative talents in the fashion industry, died Tuesday at age 60 from complications following a coronary angioplasty.
This story first appeared in the October 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A funeral is expected to be held on Wednesday in Empoli, Tuscany. No information on survivors could be learned at press time.
“We worked together for 30 years and he soon became one of my best friends,” recalled a saddened Santo Versace. “He poured his soul into his work; he was one of the most important people in the history of Versace; he was part of the team and contributed to the success of our brand and to that of the Made in Italy label.”
Ruffo, based in Calcinaia, outside Pisa, was considered one of the finest specialty manufacturers in Italy, supplying leatherwear to Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, among others, reaching a peak of success in the Eighties and Nineties. “I went with Gianni [Versace] to see the [Ruffo] factory in 1979; the leather was extraordinary, and Gianni had an infinite passion for leather,” Versace said of his late brother. “He nudged him and nothing was ever impossible to do. He embodied the research for perfection.”
Luxury brand consultant Joy Yaffe, who helped launch the Ruffo Research experimental line in 1997, concurred, saying of Corsi, “He took such pride in the product, he was a perfectionist and very meticulous. All had to be in place, he was very detail-oriented and it all had to be just so.” On a personal level, she remembered Corsi as “a very gentle person, reserved and generous, and a great gentleman, showing great humility. And he was a true family man. This is a tragedy.” She recalled how he tapped 25 designers, including Helmut Lang, for example, to show their own take on shearling in Paris in July during couture week at the Ritz Hotel in 1997. “I remember Lang did a sculpture on that occasion,” she said.
Ruffo Research was introduced in 1998 and suspended in 2003 because of difficult market conditions. The collections were created by different designers every year. The last was Haider Ackermann, who followed Alexandre Mathieu, Sophia Kokosalaki, Véronique Branquinho and Raf Simons.
Kokosalaki said she “was really sorry to hear this. He was a nice man and respected talent. I am glad I met him through Joy Yaffe and he gave me the opportunity and freedom to work with leather in his amazing factory with his skilled and dedicated craftspeople.”
In spring 2004, Corsi said he was relaunching Ruffo Research with Riccardo Tisci, but the project fell through two months into the relationship when Corsi suspended the collection.
Ruffo was hit hard by low-cost competition and outsourcing in 2006, but Corsi continued to work as a consultant.