Shoes collector: Roberta Polato Rossi

The luxury footwear “guru” and shoes collector, with more than 2.000 pair of shoes owned!!


Roberta Polato Rossi is a footwear “guru”. She’s worked over twenty years in the field of luxury footwear, first for Yves Saint Laurent and Emmanuel Ungaro, then spending an extended period running style office at Rossimoda, a family concern now owned by the LVMH giant, monitoring several collections – Givenchy, Celine, Emilio Pucci, Donna Karan, Kenzo, Loewe and Marc by Marc Jacobs, testing the prototypes personally to identify defects and qualities. The sector holds no secrets for her now, as she knows the ins and outs of shoe production from research to development, marketing and sales. Roberta Polato Rossi is also a shoes collector and she has pubblished, on this theme, a book called “A lezione di tacchi” edited by Sonzogno.

You have an archive of over 2.000 pairs of shoes. How do you manage to pick one pair out? Do you have a special archiving method?
The most recent are in my home in Venice, where I live. I’ve transformed a neglected staircase that used to be a secondary entrance, the kind of thing the Venetians called a ‘sconte’, into a spectacular shoe cupboard. I store my sneakers, ballet pumps and moccasins – the most comfy shoes for walking around in Venice – on the steps. The others, the special pairs, evening shoes or the ones with medium or high heels, are on the side shelves. The collection is organised in boxes with clear panels and photos on the outside, arranged by brand.

What’s you first shoe-related memory?
Not a nice memory. When I was 3 I was diagnosed with a serious problem – flat feet, which the doctor said would lead to problems walking and standing, and most of all would mean I couldn’t wear heels when I grew up. I wish that doctor could see me now, dancing in 14 cm heels!!!

You first pair?
Orthopaedic shoes, which I detested for years.

Which ones will you keep on wearing and never get tired of?
Canfora Capri sandals I wear in summer.

Which are you most fond of?
All the shoes I saw designed by Monsieur Saint Laurent.

The most comfortable?
Traditional Venetian ‘friulane’.

The most common brands in the collection?
Prada and Givenchy.

Which is the most precious pair?
Some sandals designed around a jewel by Christian Lacroix for an Haute Couture runway show. There are only two pairs – one belongs to an Arab princess, and I have the other!

Is there someone you trust that you go to when your shoes need resoling?
I never wear the same pair often enough to wear the soles out, and I rarely break a heel. I think the best repair people are Minuit Moins in Paris, Michael’s Shoe Repair in London and Olympic Shoe Repair in New York

Have you worn them all?
Of course not!

What’s your favourite shop?
More a street than a shop – Rue de Granelle in Paris, one shoe shop after another. Then there’s a floor with just shoes in Bergdorf and Goodman in New York. Do you only buy contemporary designs, or do you have vintage pairs, too? Almost all are contemporary, often exotic. I come back from every trip with some special shoes. I plunge into the collections as soon as they reach the shops. I never but online unless I know the brand and type of shoe well. You find the best vintage stuff in the European capitals, and in Berlin or Brussels.

Can you give us some insider’s tips about surviving a whole day in heels?
One tip is ‘the change’ I always have with me, I never wear the same shoes during the day and I always have a comfy pair in the car and the office.

What are the key pieces, in terms of shoes, that should feature in every woman’s wardrobe?
Modern pumps, with platforms, not pointed. Sumptuous unbranded ballet pumps, fun summer sandals and practical winter boots with lovely heels and top-quality materials. Some fashionable shoes for the season, and at least one pair of sexy, feminine and slightly provocative evening shoes.

Do you have some made-to-measure shoes? If so, who made them for you?
Segalin in Venice, in calle dei Fabbri, a star…

Never wear high heels with…
A jogging suit!

Any high heel myths you can dispel?
They don’t cause bunions, they don’t damage the back, it’s just a question of posture and alignment. That’s why I’m publishing a book about the secrets of walking on heels…and more.

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