Best Foot Forward – with Luca Rossetti, CEO Fratelli Rossetti

Fratelli Rossetti was founded in 1953 by the visionary genius Renzo Rossetti in Parabiago, just outside Milan. At the time, a national fashion industry was just beginning to develop in Italy. Today the second generation of the family, brothers Diego, Dario, and Luca oversee the company. With their dedication and devotion, they have taken the company to its 60th anniversary and beyond. Today, across the globe, the brand is synonymous with style, embodying the values of unparalleled craftsmanship.

We met with the company’s CEO and son of the founder, Luca Rossetti at their boutique located at Arraya Centre, Ground Floor.

Italy, and particularly its fashion sector, holds tight to the enduring model of the ‘family run business’. What advantages do you feel this gives you and your brothers in running your business? For us, a family business is very important – especially in shoes – because of shoemaking, especially men’s shoes, is a kind of art. It’s very important to pass the know-how from generation to generation. Also, inside the factory, amongst workers, there are a lot of families working there too. This kind of business benefits from the family arrangement. Also, the signature style of Fratelli Rossetti shoes has remained constant through the generations – by keeping this within the family, the generations act like a filter, making sure we stay true to our Fratelli Rossetti style and ethos. We have the same taste and the same feeling.

How do you, Diego and Dario divide responsibility?What’s the secret to making it work? When we work together as brothers, there’s no secret – it is easy. But, as we move to the next generations – when cousin work with cousins, this may be different. As brothers, we’ve worked together since we were young – after school and even during our long summer vacations. Now I am the CEO, but I work together with Dario on the creation of the collection, and Diego has been working on our international development, now he is the President. He’s nine years older than me, Dario is seven years older than me – being the youngest I’m a bit more active! We meet every week or two weeks – I may be more operational but we’re all aware and all involved all the time.

What do you feel distinguishes Fratelli Rossetti from other high-end global shoe brands? What do you point to as being your unique DNA? I think one of our distinguishing factors is that we’re not global! We sell 50% of our products in Italy. We’re very well-known at home – I think this is strength. I think it is important that a brand that is identified as ‘Made in Italy’ is strong in Italy. There are no other companies like us any longer. We tell our history to the clients – this is important too.

How do you balance tradition with contemporary and improvements of techniques in manufacture? Which is the priority for you? The way of constructing shoes has not really changed over the years. The changes are more detailed. For example, in the 60s our father made the first shoes with a fabric lining. Today we still construct the shoes using traditional techniques. The shoes are updated from the original models – but we’re careful not to make too many changes. The last few years we’ve been working on the painting of the shoes. We’ve developed new techniques for this. Sometimes we start with completely white shoes, and we add the colour by hand. With others, we dip the shoe completely. We colour the sole and the lining the same. We’ve also developed techniques for woven shoes. We’ve improved craftsmanship rather than introduced contemporary techniques – that’s all.

What is it about the Italian people that they continue, generation after generation, delivering style and flair that most other nations can only dream of matching? People have said that we have so much history, and so much appreciation for quality going back many, many years. We know beauty too. We were educated by our father to keep an eye on the details – it’s in our blood.

How truly global is the company today? How significant in the Middle East, and how do you see this growing? As I mentioned, we don’t really see ourselves as global. We’re a very small company. We want to develop the Middle East – this is an important step. We’re here in Kuwait, at Galleries Lafayette in Dubai, and Dubai Mall as well. But I think it’s important to still focus on Italy. People expect to see us there – they come to Italy for us. We need still to focus on having the most beautiful shops in the most beautiful cities in our own country. A key part of Fratelli Rossetti’s success is that we are not everywhere.

Which are the key models we should be looking at to stay ahead of the style curve this season? For us, the very important items are our iconic shoes. Our father established the company around loafers. Our father re-invented these shoes – he was the first to offer a contemporary and lightweight version. Today, you’ll find loafers from many brands. But in the 60s we made them relevant. He created them with a very thin sole, very soft, and unlined – this became the classic loafer. Today’s style remains true to these. In the 60s we became known for adding tassels to our loafers – another iconic detail. This is our model ‘Brera’ – for us, it is a very iconic and timeless shoe. Seasonally we’ll add something new – something with the leather or the stitching. But they’re always recognisably Fratelli Rossetti – but always innovative.

Fratelli Rossetti is in Dubai Mall both at Level Shoes and Galeries Lafayette and in Kuwait at Arraya Centre

Simon Balsom