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Francesco Russo’s mother was a seamstress. And as a boy, growing up in southern Italy, he helped at her fittings. During the final appointments, when the garment’s length would be measured, Russo’s job was to slip a heel on the client’s foot. “It was the most magical moment,” the designer reminisces from his namesake boutique on rue de Valois in Paris, which opened in 2013 to coincide with the launch of his label. “She stepped into those shoes and transformed into something else, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.” The childhood experience forged his love of footwear — and more specifically, his belief that high heels are an object of transformation.

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High heels should be created to emphasize the natural beauty of the individual and make her a supreme creature.

Not surprisingly, Russo’s early understanding and appreciation of footwear led to an impressive career as a designer for brands like Saint Laurent, Miu Miu and Sergio Rossi. Under his creative direction some of the last decade’s most notable designs — like YSL’s iconic Tribute — were created. Of course, working for brands with solid pedigrees meant that Russo’s job was to act as a translator, to collaborate with the creative director and design shoes that were true to the brand. “I imagine I felt the same as a writer who spent his life translating other people’s work, at some point you want to tell your own story,” says Russo.

As the creative director of his eponymous footwear line, Russo’s collections, as well as bespoke services, are created with a nostalgia for couture. “In the ʹ50s and ʹ60s the dialogue between a woman and the designer was crucial — it was the heart of the creation process,” says Russo.

His own made-to-order program and bespoke services are an attempt to recreate that dialogue. For Russo, bringing back individual expression and the exclusivity of bespoke is to return to the height of luxury: couture. The personal interactions with his clients have also highlighted the practical value of custom-made pieces. “I’m connecting with different women of different ages with different bodies and personalities,” says Russo. What might make one woman feel strong, powerful or flirtatious, might not work for another. Taking a customized approach gets to the heart of good design — creating something that works for the wearer. “At some point high heels almost became a supreme object and a woman’s body was in service of the shoe,” says Russo. That’s the type of dialogue he hopes to redirect. “High heels should be created to emphasize the natural beauty of the individual and make her a supreme creature.”

Join us at Holts Vancouver’s newly opened footwear hall on February 25th, 2017, from 10AM to 5PM, to experience Francesco Russo’s made-to-order event and customize your own personal pair of shoes.