Sergio Rossi

MILAN — Sergio Rossi’s renovated flagship in Paris is the latest sign of the new course chief executive officer Riccardo Sciutto is charting for the Italian footwear brand, which will mark its 50th anniversary in 2018.

“The message is clear: As soon as we launched the new SR 1 collection, breaking with the past, saying Sergio Rossi is back, everyone responded right away, and Asia and China in particular. But we knew we needed a new store concept,” said Sciutto, who joined the company in March last year from Hogan.

Unveiled Sept. 15 in the French capital, the store concept was first introduced in Asia earlier this year at Tokyo’s Ginza Six shopping complex, in Beijing and in Hong Kong at Harbour City. “The collection was sold out in a month-and-a-half in China,” added Sciutto, speaking in his usual rapid-fire and passionate way. SR 1 was the first collection to be unveiled in September 2016 by the new owner of the luxury footwear brand, Investindustrial, under the lead of Sciutto and the design team. Following the exit of design director Angelo Ruggeri in May 2016, the brand is designed by an in-house team.

The Paris boutique on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré first opened in November 1997 and the revamp shows that the company “believes in Paris and this market, looking beyond the dramatic terrorist attacks,” said Sciutto.

The executive said he wanted the store to reflect the brand’s “charming, feminine and harmonious style, less ostentatious and sexy than in the recent past.” He asked himself how he could translate the label’s craftsmanship, which involves 120 steps to create a shoe in 14 days, “without becoming too literal or tedious.”

Sciutto was personally involved in the design of the store and tapped architect Marco Costanzi, who hails from the Romagna region, also the home of Sergio Rossi, headquartered in San Mauro Pascoli. “Costanzi has great respect for the brand, he is a visionary with the use of materials but he is also a realist and very practical. This is a must. A funny anecdote is that [founder] Sergio Rossi first called Costanzi to work together back in 1999, before he sold his company,” recounted Sciutto.

Gucci Group, which has since been folded into Kering, bought a majority stake in the brand in 1999 during an aggressive acquisition drive masterminded by Domenico De Sole and Tom Ford. The group eventually took full control of the company in 2004. European investment house Investindustrial acquired Sergio Rossi from Kering in December 2015. Investindustrial was founded by Italian financier Andrea C. Bonomi and also has stakes in Aston Martin, B&B Italia and luxury lighting firm Flos, among others.

In a synergic move, seating by B&B and lights by Flos are interior design elements in the 864-square-foot Paris store. There are elegant references to Milan, with the use of pink Breccia marble and hues of Brione CK pink used in tony Milanese homes. Pink gold and bronze elements continue that color’s leitmotif, which is tempered by steel, brass, chestnut wood and Plexiglas. The Milanese inspiration is also seen in touches of orange that Sciutto said were inspired by the city’s famed architect Piero Portaluppi.

Shelves are uneven and tables are multilevel. “I am tired of seeing flat shoe shelves, I wanted to add a fun variation,” he said. Tables show a SR 1 plaque and a sofa is designed after the brand’s classic Opanka shoe, with its characteristic heel as the leg of the sofa and its upper as the back rest. The sofa is made in suede, Alcantara and silk in shades from chocolate to ochre, yellow and brown. Leather also frames mirrors — a clear reference to the label’s footwear tradition. In the window, there is a screen in laser-cut leather made at the factory’s plant that reproduces the brand’s Mermaid design.

Sciutto said he “wanted to add yet another feminine ingredient to the Paris flagship, it was fundamental to make it almost a unique venue.” To this end, he asked architect Cristina Celestino, who last year worked with Fendi, to interpret three areas of the store — the window, the open seating area and the privé — “without overturning the concept’s new message, but as a natural evolution. The idea is to do similar collaborations in other stores,” Sciutto explained. The privé area, which has a greener shade, is also meant to be dedicated to special projects such as the customization of products, due to be launched at the end of October or in early November.

Milan will be the next flagship to be revamped in 2018. “That store is now performing really very well,” said Sciutto. “We’ve seen a 40 percent uptick in sales.” The La Rinascente corner will also be rejuvenated next year and the brand will be present at the department store’s new unit to be inaugurated on Oct. 12 in Rome. Sciutto said he is also looking for a stand-alone location in the Italian capital.

There are 50 Sergio Rossi stores globally and 11 were refurbished in 2017. The same number will be revamped next year.

Sciutto declined to provide financial details about the retail investments or recent sales figures due to the transformation the company is going through, including halting the men’s division. He did say that exports account for 80 percent of revenues, but Italy is picking up. “We are back in the most important multibrands,” he touted, noting that luxury store Antonia this month inked a special partnership with Sergio Rossi. The company has designed an in-store installation to present a sabot dedicated to the retailer in a geometric hand-applied leather and suede intarsia in vibrant green, white and black.

He trumpeted strong business and brand awareness in Japan and China, where he is mapping out a new development plan. Japan is one of the main markets for Sergio Rossi, counting 23 directly operated stores.

Sciutto said that Europe was also growing and that there is potential in the U.S., where the brand is often more identified with evening wear and red carpet events, ticking off Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts recently sporting Sergio Rossi designs. The executive is looking at New York as an additional store location. There are currently two boutiques in the region.

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