Marilyn Monroe once said “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” This is certainly one mantra that Italian maestro, Giuseppe Zanotti lives by. The one time DJ who grew up in San Mauro Pascoli, a small town that has a long tradition of shoe-making has acquired a cult following of fashionistas and celebrities alike. And It’s not exactly hard to see why; smoking hot sneakers for daytime and the highest of all heels for night time, Zanotti does it all, transforming women with the peep of a toe or a sculpted heel. Life + Times caught up with the legendary luxury shoe designer to discuss his muses, music taste, and his brotherly love for Kanye West.
Life+Times: It is a pleasure to interview you Mr. Zanotti. How would you describe the Giuseppe Zanotti brand?
Giuseppe Zanotti: : That’s like an endless book which I am still writing and that I keep changing… dedicated to women.
L+T: If you only had three words to describe Giuseppe Zanotti designs, what would they be?
GZ: Light, well proportioned, and energetic.
L+T: And the design aesthetic for Giuseppe Zanotti…
L+T: Do you have any muses that you think of when you are designing?
GZ: No. Inspiration is something that origins from everywhere; everything can be one flame of the never ending creativity’s fire. It’s anything, anywhere.
L+T: What do you want people to feel when wearing a Giuseppe Zanotti design?
GZ: I want them to feel self confident, proud, and unique. My shoes are not created for a specific outfit, for a total look. Like a pair of jeans, my shoes are created to fit with anything. The spirit of a woman who buys my shoes should be the same of a woman buying a pair of jeans or a t-shirt.
L+T: What music were you listening to when designing you’re latest collection?
GZ: Well, I run from hip-hop, contemporary music, to funky, and Philadelphia music of the ’70s. I enjoy playing with the sound of the past and the rhythm of the present. Just like in my shoes you find the traditional craftsmanship of the ’50s but redesigned in a contemporary way with a touch of irony and innovation.
L+T: Do you have a favorite album or artist to listen to when you are creating?
GZ: I enjoy a lot listening to Kanye’s music but I also like Clash, Nirvana, Talking Heads. I live for music.
L+T: Speaking of Kanye [West], you have a great friendship with him. What do you think of his design attempts?
GZ: My friendship with Kanye is a matter of sympathy and true brotherly love. On the professional side, I believe he is an extremely versatile artist, a renaissance man. It’s not just a matter of good sound; there is the sound, the lyrics, his own outfits, the album cover, the video clips…everything is perfectly taken care of and he creates poetry for your spirit and body. I think he really has great potential.
I enjoyed working with him and observing through his fashion designs the way trends are changing. We all have to follow this wave of change offering new ideas, new incentives to grow. Fashion now is not an end in itself, it’s not showing off like in the ’80s or just a runway like in the ’90s or a total look like in the 2000’s. Nowadays everybody has the freedom to follow his or her instinct and to wear any brand and to listen to any music. To mix and match. We should all recognize this change and be part of it. Kanye, with his courage and his honesty has done his part. He was not afraid of facing such a dangerous world such as the fashion one, he was not afraid of shouting to everyone who he is.
L+T: How did the Cruel Summer Giuseppe Zanotti shoe come about?
GZ: It was a reciprocal intuition connected on one side to some graphic elements in Kanye’s album cover and on the other side to one of my sandals. We both wanted to add something respectively to the cover and to the sandal, bringing a strong message but a harmonious and balanced one at the same time.
L+T: Do you think people were unfairly harsh on Kanye’s fashion line?
GZ: People are too hard when something new changes the balance. Unfortunately, the fashion planet is not only a creative system, but also a political machinery. Kanye entered the entire environment with his head held high and his brave nature has to be respected.
Honesty, throughout 30 years, I have been meeting designers who did not do their work so well and they could not play good music either. I think that some little details should be forgiven to brave people; on the contrary, a boring fashion week edition is unforgivable. I really would love having a guest designer like Kanye during Milan’s fashion week. He could shake the system with his adrenaline.
L+T: How do you feel about celebrity fashion lines in general?
GZ: As usual, there are improvised things which are made too quickly and celebrities should be careful but there are others which are the result of a deep polyhedral creative desire. For an artist to create is a necessity if endowed with talent applicable to any field. I dreamed of becoming a DJ but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time; everybody in my hometown was making shoes and I ended up making shoes too. I’m happy for this but at the same time I’m sure that if I grew up in Murano, Venice, I would have designed glasses or if I grew up in Paris I would have done something else. Who knows? Art is art and if you have it inside you, you use it.
L+T: Do you ever feel competitive with other designers?
GZ: Absolutely not. Everybody has his own history and style, like in music. Sometimes I catch the right shoes, sometimes somebody else gets it. We, shoe designers, are a very small group because our type of “music” or “our sound” is very difficult; you need to have good skills, to do research and too often also to add some pain to find new paths and be gifted with moments of great joy. It’s a challenge that few people like. I can only respect the other shoe designers.
L+T: Who is you’re personal favorite designer?
GZ: Christophe Decarnin.
L+T: How would you describe your relationship with model Anja Rubik?
GZ: Anja [Rubik] represents a sophisticated and cool woman. She’s so versatile. She changes each time. Like every women she likes to change a lot. We’ve been friends for a long time and I like how she interprets my collections. We have also designed a capsule collection together. The creation of this capsule collection has been a pleasurable and exciting game between me as a designer, with my experience and sensitivity for women’s shoes, and Anja, an iconic woman, top model, muse of many of the most important fashion houses. It happened naturally in my atelier, our ideas and skills fused together, listening to music, chatting and having a good time. I believe it has been a great experience and an important exercise for both of us. A study, sort of an analytical one, of the ideal shoe for a woman on one side and on the other side the ideal woman for my shoes. I believe she has a huge potential, I see a real talent in her. Her style, taste and sense of proportions after nearly two decades spent working in the fashion world are very recognisable and distinct.
L+T: Do you have a favorite model or favorite photographer?
GZ: I was struck by Milla Jovovich pictured by Peter Lindbergh, displayed at Corso Como in Seoul. She reflects a timeless, indomitable beauty. That’s a really great shooting.
L+T: You have been mentioned in Hip-Hop songs by the likes of Nicki Minaj and more. How does that feel?
GZ: Actually, I often listen to an old R&B song “Smile,” which Michael Jackson used to sing when he was a child. After 35 years, listening to that song again makes me feel a lot of tenderness because in that period I was dreaming of changing my life. I noticed that many things came later by themselves, without any effort. But yes when a singer mentions me, it is a sign of appreciation for me. This has more value than any red carpet or any successful collection, because besides shoes, I always adored and followed the music world, above all the rest. I do not have particular expectations, but when a positive feedback of my work comes from an interview or a song, I feel extremely honored.
L+T: The likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and more regularly wear Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. Do you still get excited by this?
GZ: Of course, this is not only still exciting, but it’s also a privilege. Having a personal request by a celeb makes me feel like a friendly or extended part of his or her family. This is very stimulating and it pushes me to do always my best. Actually, I know very well their foot’s characteristics and I hope to offer a cool product, even comfortable and resistant during their performances. When I saw Beyoncé wearing my shoes during the Grammys, I felt touched. How could not I be honored by this? I just like working with any other creative person, I am always in search of new challenges; a few instants of happiness and then at work again. The show must go on!
L+T: Do you have a dream celebrity that you wish to see wear you’re designs?
GZ: Every woman who wears shoes which have strength and identity such as mine should feel like a celebrity. Every woman is a celebrity to me and I work for all of them, I want to be at their feet. When a celebrity reaches out to me, I enjoy working together with them on a specific project, but there is not “The One,” there are just many that I love.
L+T: Would you like to branch into clothing?
GZ: If Cristophe Decarnin or Kanye would like to team with me, I would like to design a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with them, nothing else. Other than that, just shoes.
L+T: Do you have a catch phrase or moto that you live by?
GZ: So far so good…
L+T: And finally what goals do you still hope to achieve?
GZ: I have too many, there are not enough gigabytes for this. Just love everybody.