Known among the music and fashion elite for his special brand of sumptuous, towering stilettos and sexy, bejeweled flats, Giuseppe Zanotti continues to be a pioneer in shoe design after 28 years in the business. Currently, Zanotti is expanding his shoe empire at an exponential rate, opening new stores everywhere from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Jakarta to Beijing and Cyprus to Latvia.
A passionately creative artisan whose attention to detail and innovative use of materials is virtually unparalleled, Zanotti’s forays into the world marketplace—the brand’s revenues grew by more than 20 percent in 2007—are balanced with a true dedication to craft. By training a cadre of artisans in his hometown, Zanotti delivers top-notch craftsmanship in every pair, consistently creating trends and influencing the future of shoe design. We had a chance to talk to Giuseppe on a visit to his gorgeous Manhattan showroom during New York Fashion Week.
JC Report: Where you do find inspiration for your line?
Giuseppe Zanotti: I try to understand the woman’s sensibility. Inspiration for the collection could come from many different places—simple pictures from Italian
photographs from the ’60s and ’70s. I might be inspired by the mood, the makeup, the atmosphere, the time period, and then I take that and project it into future, like a time machine. I run from the past and the future to the secret women’s wardrobe—every woman lets me into their personal closets. I want to capture their secret desires both in private and everyday life—from shopping to cocktail parties—to stop and study the little private details in a woman’s life.
JCR: I picture your studio as this amazing fantastical place…
GZ: My design studio is very big—all my memories, records, books, magazines are there, many cards that women have sent me telling me, ‘I got this man because of your shoes.’ I get a lot of these letters.
JCR: Tell us about the start of your business.
GZ: In the ’90s when I started my own line, there was nothing like it—it was very niche. I started in the Plaza Hotel in 1994, showed the first collection there to great success.
JCR: How did it help to just focus on shoes?
GZ: When I saw others do full collections—lifestyle, home, earrings, etc—this is business, I understand, I like this. But when we talk about shoes, it is a serious job—not many others are doing it at this level. I want to do a fusion of both creativity and production—the correct way for this time, and then also the future. Timeless designs not for the fashion, but for a woman’s wardrobe forever. My mission is to do shoes and stay focused on that, to understand what I can do more for my women. I need to study more in shoes. Do I want to jump into another thing? No. I want to learn more about shoes, learn about myself and my identity. I do not want to outpace my company.
JCR: What’s your favorite new store?
GZ: Fifteen years ago, thinking about stores, [I] thought about different markets—it was very difficult—NYC, London, Milan, Tokyo, we created the same store, atmosphere and mood across the globe, but the NYC Madison store and Sloane Street in London… there are more elements that are close to me from the studio in those stores because there is a bit more room.
JCR: How has Hollywood had an impact on your business?
GZ: Rock stars love to wear something more unique, sexy, sophisticated, super-crazy for the Grammys and for videos and concerts—super-crazy but super-classy. Sometimes sweet, sometimes aggressive.
JCR: What do you think about “Made in Italy”—there has been a lot of discussion on this topic in the world’s luxury markets.
GZ: Italy has the most important tradition in terms of craft, suppliers and artisanship. The people who work the tanneries are the best, and there is a big tradition of hand-finishing there. My brand can produce in Italy because we have the volume. The problem comes when the trade commission doesn’t always check carefully, they don’t always protect Made in Italy. Italy has good tanneries, good materials, good accessories. It has the tradition, and I am very traditional. I am falling in love with the memory of my grandparents, my parents, so I want to continue in this way, falling in love with my work.
This interview was conducted by Meghan Cleary.