While Rousseau’s designs can be playful, they always have an aggressive-chic lurking just beneath the surface. On his pumps, a unique ankle scallop feature cups the heel and elongates the leg, while an ankle bootie incorporates a peekaboo, ruched detail at the back, which uses a carefully chosen patent that crinkles instead of bending stiffly. In another flourish, he chops the classic t-strap profile in two to create a “missing t-strap,” evoking a more modern gladiator silhouette. Material-wise, Rousseau works in metallic blue, black, chocolate and pumpkin suede and leather, adding details in metallic and studied matte Karung aquatic snakeskin (which is not on the endangered species list like so many exotics).
Rousseau trained at Cordwainers College in London before working for a variety of design luminaries including Alexander McQueen, Isabella Fiore and John Richmond, and the relationships he developed have paid off well in his solo endeavor. Rousseau’s connections enabled him to enlist a factory outside of Tuscany that produces for a number of blue-chip houses in the industry. On the sales side, his line is already exceeding projections for 2008, with orders from Fred Segal Feet in Los Angeles (who bought an unheard-of nine styles in the Fall collection), Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Mahna Mahna in Tokyo.
For his forthcoming Spring 2009 collection, Rousseau’s designs span the range from Moulin Rouge-esque citron pumps trimmed in black to gorgeous sea-green stilettos with floppy grosgrain bows. Happily, his designs also demonstrate a keen focus on ensuring the wearer’s comfort through the use of additional padding and attention to balance—even in the five-inch stilettos he has planned.
Rousseau may also be the first shoe designer to have his work figure prominently in a major motion picture—maverick director Terry Gilliam was so taken with the designs that he’s using them as set pieces in his upcoming film, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, starring Johnny Depp and Lily Cole. In the shoe scene, the pair dance, twirling amid 30-foot replicas of Rousseau’s creations in a veritable stiletto heaven.