In April this year, Giuseppe Zanotti turned 60.
So, how did the Italian fashion designer – famed for his luxury footwear – celebrate his birthday?
“There was no big party,” says Zanotti in an exclusive interview. “I like to sail, so I was on a boat in Portofino (Italy). Normally, I prefer to be alone on my birthdays but this time, I was joined by a longtime friend from New York and his wife. It was a quiet but meaningful celebration.”
Quiet is certainly not the word one would associate with Zanotti’s larger-than-life creations.
Known for his his sculptural, jewelled heels, luxury sneakers, handbags and jewellery, Zanotti in person is amicable and down to earth.
He was recently in Singapore for the opening of his boutique in ION Orchard; the 108sq m store houses the brand’s full product offerings, which includes shoes for men and women and a ready-to-wear collection.
Sporting a floppy fringe, statement glasses and a well-tailored suit, he exudes an infectious enthusiasm that makes him appear much younger than his age.
Asked for the secret to his youthful mien, Zanotti replies: “I work hard but it’s important to always take time off for friends. That keeps me youthful. For instance, last night I had drinks with friends; we shared a bottle of red wine against the beautiful skyline of Singapore.
“I am 60 but I feel like teenager, because I have so many more things to do,” he adds.
“When you work in fashion, you’re so proud of your work after you produce one collection. But when you work on a new collection, you start all over again, from zero,” explains Zanotti. “In terms of work, I am never satisfied.”
Not surprisingly, retirement is not something he’d consider in the near future.
With a cheeky smile, he draws a coffin on a piece of paper, indicating that he’d work till his dying breath, and take a pair of high heels with him.
“When I was 45, my target (for retirement) was 60. Now, it’s postponed to 70,” he muses.
“Fashion is like a drug, you get addicted to the adrenalin. Sometimes you love the rush, sometimes you hate it. I don’t gamble in life but I’ve staked everything I have on this brand. It is like a casino, you need to take risks with every new collection.”
Asked to describe the evolution of women’s fashion over the decades, Zanotti answers: “Women are no longer slaves to a particular designer, they don’t dress head-to-toe in one brand.
“I like the high-low combination – a woman can wear clothes from a high street brand and carry a designer handbag. They’re more flexible now and they inject more of their personality into their dressing.”
Of his Asian clientele, Zanotti has this to say: “Malaysian and Singaporean women have always been very elegant. I find that women in Kuala Lumpur love fashion so much, and they have super flexible mentality, whether it’s their sneakers, high heels or flats. And the men are more daring too, with shoes adorned with jewels.”
Asked for his inspiration, Zanotti replies: “It is always music. I listen to all kinds of music, from Eighties’ R&B to punk, rock and sometimes even classical music. Then, I start to write a story; every collection begins with a story I have in mind.”
His affinity for music has in turn drawn the biggest stars in the industry for collaborations. To date, Zanotti has partnered singers Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West and Zayn Malik on capsule collaborations.
From the brand’s earliest beginnings – it was founded in 1994 – Zanotti has found fans in actors and musicians. A-listers who have worn his creations include Madonna, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Heidi Klum, Ciara, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian West.
Zanotti speaks fondly of his partnership with the late Michael Jackson. In 2009, Zanotti crafted three exclusive styles for Jackson’s This Is It showcase at the O2 Arena in London.
“It was a very mutual collaboration,” says Zanotti. “But he didn’t want to meet because he was very shy. So he called me personally and requested for the boots to be more skinny.”
Upon Jackson’s death, one of the pairs was auctioned off during the amfAR gala dinner in Milan where his sister, Janet, a personal friend of Zanotti, bid on them.
In 2011, Kanye West reached out to Zanotti to design shoes for his debut fashion show in Paris.
“Kanye is super creative and super sensitive. It’s true that he can be difficult but he’s actually a shy person, and he’s a perfectionist.”
Zanotti also worked with Britney Spears for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 2001.
As it was for the Women In Rock issue, Zanotti wanted to create a look for Spears that was “more punk”.
“I requested for her jeans, and she sent me three pairs. I incorporated chains, nails and metal elements on to the jeans, and designed a pair of high boots to complete the ensemble. She looked beautiful!”
On working with celebrities, Zanotti says he has received “impossible” orders.
“For instance, Britney requested for a pair of shoes that would melt as she performed on stage. It is stimulating to receive such challenges but I cannot meet all of them.
“Over the years, I have learnt to say no. Now I only work with people who share the same frequency, who become part of my family,” concludes Zanotti.
Giuseppe Zanotti’s Spring/Summer collection conjures up the atmosphere of an endless summer on tropical islands and poolside parties.
The designer borrows the spirit and hues of the warmest season of the year, elevating them to create a playful, versatile and vibrant collection. The 1990s provide the key reference point: daring colours, feminine silhouettes and glamorous effects.
The supple wedge heel which simulates the curves of the foot is designed to resemble walking on water. The Picard Shining in silver leather is the result of skilful analysis of form and structural balance. Crystals create subtle reflections that blend in with the transparency of the vinyl. The dazzling effect is also featured in the Cassidy flat slide, which combines perspex with the metallic hue of the sole.
The bold, eclectic nature of the collection is defined by the Kendra, a boot that can be worn two ways . A zipper boot in soft black nappa leather, it is enhanced by silver metal detailing and corset lacing that evokes the provocative appeal of the 90s. The featured zip allows the two elements to be worn together or separately, revealing its dual elegance – part bootie, part over-the-knee boot.
The same dual principle is seen on the Aleesha sandal. The gold serpent anklet gives added allure to the black satin or gilded leather mule. The matching clutch bag of the same name is interpreted in matte suede, with a similar gold serpent embellishment.
Meanwhile, key styles for the men’s collection include Reflect denim loafer and Ardell biker boot, both modern versions of classic uniforms worn by muscial icons of the 90s.
Distinctly bleached washes, inner finishes in leather and carefully crafted tears reveal a sartorial approach to the collection, which is lit up by mosaics of glimmering mirror fragments.
In Malaysia, Giuseppe Zanotti – operated by Valiram – is located on level two of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.