When was the last time you bought monogrammed shoes customized exactly to your liking by a highly trained Italian artisan—oh, and also had face time with the designer who created them? Despite what you might think from glancing at the dressing room lines at fast-fashion retailers, that kind of artistry isn't going extinct.
Shoe designer Francesco Russo, for one, is making a strong case for bringing couture quality to your shoes. He's created a traveling pop-up atelier where customers can customize their shoe purchase by choosing from 20 colors and two different materials. The finished product is also stamped with your initials on the insole. Normally, Russo's made-to-order program takes six weeks, but the designer has flown in an artisan straight from Italy to work on-site, cutting the time down to just 48 hours.
Now in Los Angeles at Just One Eye until February 28, this made-to-order program will be traveling to everywhere from Hong Kong to Canada over the next five months. We caught up with the designer himself in L.A. to get the scoop on the pop-up and tap into his expert shoe knowledge.
Scroll down to read our exclusive interview with designer Francesco Russo, learn about his pop-up atelier, and shop his shoes!
WHO WHAT WEAR: How do you feel about the fast-fashion industry? What do we miss out on when there's no true craftsmanship?
FRANCESCO RUSSO: For me, luxury cannot be fast. Besides image and glamour, it's about product. And what distinguishes luxury product from mass-market product is the know-how: the quality of the material, how things are finished. For all of these elements, you need time to fine tune the technique. In the case of the shoes, you need to find the right heel, the best fit. Luxury cannot be fast—it's just a fact.
WWW: Why did you decide to have a pop-up atelier?
FR: The main idea is that this is a global extension of what we do in Paris and what we always did since the very beginning. When I launched my brand, it was just a little store in Paris. The idea was to make a couture line of shoes. So in Paris, there are of course the ready-to-wear shoe sizes, but then the client could pick any of the models and customize with any material she wants. Now we have 40 retailers around the world, but for us, it's still crucial to maintain the philosophy of artisanal shoes and of proximity to the final customer, so we created this program.
WWW: What’s the secret to designing shoes that are comfortable?
FR: Experience. Spending time next to the artisan. Getting your hands dirty. You don’t learn shoes in a fancy polished office in Paris. You need to go to Italy where it stinks.
WWW: What are your thoughts on the top shoe trends right now?
FR: I don’t believe in trends. I believe in personality, I believe in individuality, I believe in the idea of style. You know, style doesn’t have a season—style is forever.
WWW: What styles of shoes should every woman invest in?
FR: The reason why I picked the sandal and the pump [for this program] is because for me, they are two shoes that a woman should always have. The beautiful, classical pump or the beautiful, classical sandal are pieces that you wear day to night.
Either flat sandal or either flat masculine lace-up shoes [are must-have flat shoes]. I like to think of a woman either extremely feminine in high heels or totally androgynous in flat, masculine shoes. If I was a woman, those are the two ways I would be dressed and appear to the world.
Which pair of shoes is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!
Opening Image: Style du Monde