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Italian Luxury Shoe Designer Sergio Rossi Dies From Coronavirus

Coronavirus is coming for fashion in more ways than one.

Italian luxury shoe designer Sergio Rossi died Thursday night after battling the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Italy particularly hard, and already claimed more than 13,157, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. Rossi, who was 85, died in Cesena, a small town in central Italy.

“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,” Luciana Garbuglia, mayor of San Mauro Pascoli, where Rossi was born in 1935 and where he founded his brand, told Reuters.

Rossi’s namesake brand had been under the Kering umbrella since 1999 before the luxury goods company—which operates leading brands including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent—sold it to Italian private equity fund InvestIndustrial in December 2015.

Sergio Rossi CEO Riccardo Sciutto called the company founder the brand’s “spiritual guide,” telling WWD the designer, “loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way. He was never over-the-top, always in good taste. The shoes were always wearable and he was never satisfied until they were perfect. They were not accessories for him. He told me once that he wanted to create the perfect extension of a woman’s leg.”

Rossi is survived by son, Gianvito Rossi, who turned his childhood experience watching his father design footwear and seeing Italian artisans craft it, into his own namesake luxury shoe brand, which launched in 2007.

Luxury is expected to be among the hardest hit sectors during the COVID-19 onslaught.

In a statement last Friday, Kering said, “Taking into account the progression of COVID-19 in all of its key markets and its impact on the activity of its Houses, Kering estimates that its consolidated revenue for the first quarter of 2020, ending March 31, should post a decline of 13% to 14% in reported terms (down around 15% in comparable terms) versus the first quarter of 2019.”

While market conditions have somewhat picked up in Mainland China as stores reopen and sales resurface, the story shifts in other parts of Asia and in the West.

“The impact of the epidemic remains significant in other Asia Pacific markets, and the situation has substantially deteriorated in recent weeks in Western Europe and, more recently, North America,” Kering said.