As rewarding as it is to help others, working for oneself has its own benefits. So, after launching Coach’s highly successful footwear line and consulting for brands such as Calvin Klein, Judith Leiber and Nanette Lepore, shoe designers Silvano Banfi and Frank Zambrelli founded BZ in 2003 to honor their own vision, rather than perfecting someone else’s.
“It was our personal expression, not a version of what someone else wanted, and allowed us to create our own personality rather than building from one that already existed,” Zambrelli said. The result is a highly architectural style, with an emphasis on shape, color and proportion, rather than ornamentation. The summer collection contains, among others, a stripped-down-to-its-essence, putty-colored gladiator sandal with a slight crimson heel, a peep-toe, nude colored number with a clunky, a sunflower-yellow heel with pink sole and a streamlined, elegant beige wedge with a soft apricot ankle strap.
Even in this challenging economic climate, the designers do not compromise their philosophy of excellence by having all of their models made in Tuscany. “Even though there has been a lot of evolution in manufacturing, shoes at this level of craft are still put together by hand,” Zambrelli explained. Both founders have a strong connection with European artisanry: Banfi is Italian and comes from a shoe-making family, while Zambrelli abandoned plans to become a doctor after a trip to Europe compelled him to study fashion at FIT.
Though the two have found niche success with their own designs, they continue collaborating with other labels. Dana Davis, for one, just utilized their consulting services for her line of comfortable yet sexy shoes this spring. This internal and external perspective is what makes BZ a successful, growing label.
—Christina von Messling