Giuseppe Zanotti’s styles are a synthesis of artistry and engineering, of frivolity and profundity. “My creations are feminine, sexy and emotional,” says the designer. Sometimes—too emotional. Women have “cried with joy in seeing or wearing my shoes, but that makes me feel uncomfortable,” he demurs. “I prefer seeing women with a smile on their face, rather than tears.”

He first worked in the shoe industry as a boy. Now, Zanotti’s posh pairs adorn the lower extremities of the world’s most elegant women. “How it happened exactly, I do not know,” he admits. “The process of shoe design has always sparked an innate and instinctive passion,” and “the fact that I grew up in a region of Italy, which is renown for its manufacturing know-how in this sector, made the step from passion to reality easier,” he muses. Still, “I would never have imagined myself running my own company,” he says. 

He purchased a petite factory in 1994, launched his own line in 1996, and now operates five production facilities, where hundreds of skilled employees craft detail-intensive, couture-quality footwear for a global network of 60 flagship stores. “We produce everything here, in this little village called San Mauro Pascoli, and we’re very proud of this,” he emphasizes.

“I’m an acute observer, that’s the key,” he believes. He’s also firmly grounded in the technical aspects of the design process. The former DJ, whose celebrity devotees include some of the music industry’s elite, respects artists’ individuality, but he’s not afraid to level with them. Shoes, after all, “have to abide by a few laws of physics. It’s very important to be clear right from the start and not to promise the impossible, thus harming the wearer,” he explains.

The latest Giuseppe Zanotti collection is inspired by the dreamy abstractions of the late 19-century Symbolist art movement, as well as by the bold graphics of the 1970s, with their evocative textures and vibrant, sometimes aquatic shades with a contemporary spirit and “an accent of happiness, of constant play.” Stilettos aren’t the only styles meant to be uplifting. Each pair originates with a question. “I picture in my mind a woman with a doubt: ‘What can I do to be more beautiful?’ This is my starting point,” Zanotti reveals. The outcome: shoes imbued with confidence-boosting, seductive energy.

Zanotti, who also lends his distinctive flair to jewelry, handbags and other accents, relishes the ascendancy of accessories. “In the past, it was secondary, but now, it may be better to see a woman with nice accessories and a pair of jeans rather than a woman with a couture dress with ugly shoes,” he remarks.

“Of course,” he says, “I love shoes and will keep working hard to find the perfect shoe.” He credits his team with transforming his innovations into “real works of art. Even the most plain pump or flat thong is so perfectly balanced and shaped that you can tell it is a Giuseppe Zanotti design.”

“My creations do not go unnoticed,” Zanotti asserts, yet, he stresses: “I do not want the shoes to overwhelm. The woman must always prevail over everything—also over shoes.” 

> Written by Kim Knox Beckius

Illustration: Giuseppe Zanotti