We sit down with one of the icons of the footwear industry, Giuseppe Zanotti. His long list of celebrity clientele, dedication to Italian craftsmanship, and boundary pushing aesthetic has made him one of the most important footwear designers today. We discover the workings of a man who has constantly challenged our perceptions of Killer Heels since launching his first jewelled collection in 1994.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did your love affair with shoes begin?
Having grown up in San Mauro Pascoli – a small town in Italy that is famous for its shoe-manufacturing tradition, has undoubtedly contributed to my lifetime love for shoes. Even without this early influence, I know with certainty that I would have become a designer. I love being creative and seeing my creations go from imagination to reality. There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with that.
Do you think that growing up in San Mauro Pascoli, so close to Fellini’s Rimini, and surrounded by the traditional Italian shoe-makers, has inspired the way you create shoes?
Traditional shoe making techniques have always been and will be inherent to our brand. Our factories are located in San Mauro Pascoli, the shoes are created there and I design there. However, my design process is my own, driven by my own experiences and inspiration.
Describe Giuseppe Zanotti in three words?
Unpredictable, confident, and individual.
How do you think the shoe industry has changed since you launched your first collection in New York, back in 1994? Do you think your design aesthetic has changed throughout the years?
Fashion is always evolving, it really keeps you on your toes. The transition from past to present is inevitable. The fun part is reimagining designs to reflect modern day inspirations and influences, while always being focused on my signature style.
Could you tell us a little bit about your design process? Where do you usually get the inspiration for your collections?
I source the inspiration for my designs from everywhere — photographs, landscapes, and especially music. My mind starts as a blank canvas that I design upon. I try to envision my designs to be what women desire, and give them what they want from me. My sketches are all free-hand, bold, and simplistic.
Music has always played a huge role in your life, and Giuseppe Zanotti has had several fantastic collaborations with some amazing musicians: from Kid Cudi, Beyonce, and to your much talked about Cruel Summer collaboration with Kanye West. What is it like working with musicians on designing the perfect pair of shoes?
Music has been a great inspiration for my collections — it has and will always play a very important part in my life. I used to DJ and work in radio, I constantly immerse myself in music. Ultimately, music is what led me into fashion. The styles of different artists have always fascinated me. To be able to collaborate with a variety of artists, being allowed to encapsulate both their style and my own is a true privilege. By working together, we are able to showcase our passion and energy.
You’ve expanded the world of Giuseppe Zanotti to include both accessories and RTW. What was this transition like? How have you taken your design philosophy and adapt it to ready-to-wear?
I always enjoy a good challenge. Challenging yourself teaches you a lot of life lessons. I believe my philosophy towards shoe design is no different from designing clothes — there are more aspects to think about, but it boils down to understanding the desires of your client.
You opened the doors to your first boutique in Milan back in 2000, and now you are on the cusp of opening the doors to your new London flagship. Could you tell us a little bit about your new flagship store?
I’m very excited about the opening of our flagship store in Conduit Street in October. It is in close proximity to Bond Street, London’s leading luxury shopping area, which offers a unique international destination, synonymous with quality, heritage, and style. We are delighted to be able to offer all our collections under one roof, including women’s and men’s footwear and bags, ready-to-wear, jewellery, and a dedicated bridal section. And also the ‘Giuseppe Junior’ collection, the latest addition to the brand’s product portfolio, which launched in May 2016, will also be available in-store.
With over 30 years in the shoe industry, what advice can you give to aspiring shoe designers?
Trust yourself, know who you want to design for, and have confidence in your work.
What is next for Giuseppe Zanotti? Any exciting plans for 2017, Any special projects or collaborations?
We have some really exciting upcoming projects — recently we announced collaborations with Jennifer Lopez and Zayn Malik, which are planned to launch in January 2017.
Finally, what do you think makes a Killer Heel?
I believe the stiletto heel is the definition of what a sexy heel is — however a ‘killer heel’ is created by the woman wearing the shoe. It isn’t about how high the heel is, or how thin the stiletto is — it is about the personal attitude of the women who wears it. How they dress it up, how they dress it down. I have always wanted my shoes to be seen as an extension of the woman’s individual style, not just an accessory.
Interview by Hannah Tan