Giuseppe, can you describe your designing process: from an idea to the creation of a shoe?
G. Z.: My favourite way is to start from a simple sketch. I would take an empty paper. It’s very important, a white piece of paper. Your ambition is to realize something on it — whatever. And you design a line, simple line (Giuseppe takes a pencil and draws a shape of a high heel shoe).
Beautiful, you’ve made it in five seconds!
G. Z.: It’s not a technical sketch, it’s just a line. And you know that after 2 hours you can always add something to it: metal, or flowers, or diamonds, or nothing. Or you can do a flat version of the same shoe. So this is the first exercise: to put your ideas onto a white paper. Then you need to write a story for your shoe, like for a movie, to insert it to the whole marketing strategy. And then the realization begins: you need to find materials, shape it, develop first prototypes, cut the leather, do the stitching and then correct it with scissors in hand made mode. And then, if your blood becomes worn by people, then it’s a good shoe. If not, it’s just garbage!
Do you have some hobby apart from your work, like sports, art, hunting?
G. Z.: I’m a bit allergic to sports. I even don’t care about football too much, unlike the majority of Italians. Sometimes I exercise though, about 2 times a week, but it’s always a torture for me, and my coach is my enemy who wants to kill me because I’m cancelling my appointments all the time! I do like art, and I visit lots of museums while travelling for work. I’m inspired by the past and history. I’m collecting contemporary and photography. I also like nature: at home, I have an organic biological garden with cucumbers, watermelons, salad, eggplants and olive trees to produce my own oil. I’m happy when I’m close to nature and animals.
Do you think that photography is real art? Who are your favourite photographers?
G. Z.: I think that photography is a unique medium to catch the atmosphere, the soul, the blood. A good photo should stay with me like a friend, I like having it at home to find inspiration in it all the time. But I don’t appreciate something too strong or too raw. For me, Helmut Newton was a great artist; I find lots of power of women and love in his work. I admire Richard Avedon for elegance as well. I also enjoy a lot the work of my friends who are famous Italian photographers, like Maurizio Galimberti and Carlo Benvenuto.
How do you choose photographers for your ad campaigns?
G. Z.: First of all, they need to capture what your product represents, to render the mood and the idea of the collection. Creating an ad campaign or a look book, it’s always about teamwork. You should have a good art director and stylist to transmit the concept behind the collection, and the photographer needs to have the right sensibility: if the collection is about 1920s, jazz & night, the photographer should be able to shoot in this mood, and also research this vibe in the archives to get into the right aesthetics.
Can you name some well-known people who inspire you and whom you would like to be compared with?
G. Z.: I don’t want to be compared to anyone, but in fashion, I respect a lot the work of Martin Margiela for his purity, Thierry Mugler with whom I worked, Azzedine Alaia who I was lucky to meet many years ago. But it’s not about the fame — I’m inspired by all the people who are strong and who have personality. I also admire the normal people who love what they do, people from the streets — like those who love to cook, or carve wood, or do some construction works for my house. In Italy the hands of people represent real value. We respect expertise and tradition. Simple values of real life: this is where I jump when I’m exhausted by the fashion system.
Which superpower you would like to have?
G. Z.: My superpower would be going to the past with time machine and see the world which was less contaminated than now: the sky was wider, the water purer. We need to educate the population to respect more this crazy planet, and use this lesson that life is giving us now in order to learn something. Using this superpower, I would travel to Rome, Lisbon, Beijing, but also all the small cities of Italy, which are all precious with their castles of XI century. Here in Italy we have 3 000 years of history behind us: the Romans, the Etruscans, we have them in our blood. And, of course, I would take my mobile phone with me and come back with lots of pictures!
My living room! When I’m tired after work trips (Milan – New York – Miami –Milan – Rome, etc), I adore being back to my living room, to and my dog, the remote control and a glass of Nebbiolo or pinot noir wine.
Could you describe your brand in terms of values?
G. Z.: Giuseppe Zanotti has good and bad things about it, like all the other brands. The bad, for me, is having too many ideas: I would like to be more edited! The good thing is that we really think a lot about adapting the design to the needs of a woman, trying to give also the comfort when she’s wearing 10 cm of stilettos. We engineer our shoes to give the pleasure of wearing, good shape and stability. Also, my shoes do last!
I can prove it: I bought my first pair of your shoes about 5 years ago, and they still look like new. This is also very sustainable: shoes that last become a good investment.
G. Z.: Yes, I was always thinking that fashion shouldn’t be about throwing your money into a garbage bin. It’s interesting that nowadays I often see my shoes of 20 years ago in vintages stores. And I buy them, to have them in my archives, to learn from the crazy and ambitious ideas that I had in those times.
What is the best piece of advice one can receive in the fashion world?
G. Z.: Keep calm, relax. In fashion everything is fast and furious; everyone wants the things be done immediately. And also people often dream about working in the fashion sphere to get the taste of this privileged world with its atmosphere of luxury. And it’s a wrong approach. To work in fashion, you need to learn seriously: study materials, colours, stones. You need to be experienced. In fashion, you should work with passion and patience.