Italian Shoe Designer Sergio Rossi Dies From Coronavirus Complications at 84

He captured "a woman’s femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman’s leg through his shoes."

Italian shoe designer Sergio Rossi has died from complications of the novel coronavirus. He was 84.

"Today everyone at Sergio Rossi joins me in remembering our dear Sergio, the inspiring founder of our dream," wrote Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of the Sergio Rossi Group, on Instagram. "Sergio Rossi was a master, and it is my great honor to have met him and gotten to present him the archive earlier this year. His vision and approach will remain our guide in the growth of the brand and the business."

Sciutto added, "He loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman’s leg through his shoes. Our long and glorious history started from his incredible vision, and we’ll remember his creativity forever.” 

The shoemaker died Thursday in Cesena, Italy, after being diagnosed with COVID-19; he was hospitalized for days in the intensive care unit of the Bufalini hospital, according to his family. Reuters reported that Luciana Garbuglia, mayor of San Mauro Pascoli, said, "He was among the founders of the high-end women’s footwear district in the area of Forlì and Cesena in the mid-20th century."

Born in 1935, Rossi knew how to make shoes by age 14 and sold them with his brother, Franco, in the summertime along the local river. He started his luxury footwear business in 1968. It was sold to Kering (the fashion conglomerate behind Gucci and Saint Laurent) in 1999 and later to the firm Investindustrial in 2015. Over the years, his shoes had been worn by Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz. His brand recently celebrated a capsule collection with Julia Roberts' stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, at a pop-up at Westfield Century City in 2019.

His son, Gianvito Rossi, entered the shoe industry in 2006, and his designs have been worn by Demi Lovato and Kate Middleton. Gianvito simply wrote on Instagram on Friday, "Addio Maestro," to pay tribute.

"His is a story of unconditional love for shoes, which began in an Italy consumed by the Second World War, and learned from an artisan father, who has always made bespoke shoes," his family said in a statement to Footwear News. "He has always stood out for his class and his strong, charismatic, generous, courageous character: a natural leader, loved and respected at the same time by his collaborators, with whom, in the long journey of his life he created one big family."

The statement continued, "There are those who have had the good fortune to transform their art into a work and those who have the extraordinary talent of transforming their work into a work of art. Sergio Rossi was this man. A husband, father, grandfather, and progenitor of a family that followed his example. The family offers, with love, their last goodbye: ‘With the unquenchable fire of your passion, you taught us that there are no limits for those who love what they do. Goodbye maestro.'"

Italy has seen about 120,000 cases of the coronavirus, resulting in about 14,000 deaths.