Surrounded by beautiful shoes and beautiful women, Giuseppe Zanotti feels perfectly at home at his new store in Emirates Towers. The famous shoe designer, whose clients include singer Kylie Minogue, model Heidi Klum, actress Cameron Diaz and European royalty, has been making footwear for more than 25 years and believes the intricate craftsmanship and materials are worth every bit of the Dh1,000-price tag they start at. From metallic three-inch gold, silver and bronze stilettos to disco-shaped wedges in black leather to gladiator flats that go up the leg, Zanotti’s designs are evolving every season and the mix leaves the wealthy fashion-conscious lusting after them.
Emirates Business caught up with the charming and very chic Italian during his visit to Dubai.
What brings you to Dubai?
The new store is the first standalone branch in the UAE. I already sell at Harvey Nichols but to have this is fantastic. I decided to open it in person because it’s important for me to see my work on display and it’s great to meet the women who buy my shoes. I am hoping to visit twice a year from now on.
Why is the Middle East market so important to you?
This region, especially the UAE, is booming in business, construction and retail so it was obvious that we needed to have a presence here. People who buy my shoes have style and sophistication and the women in this store today reflect that. I am also opening in Bahrain and there are plans to expand more in the region.
You are known for your strappy, bejeweled, high-heeled shoes; where do you find inspiration?
I try to understand a woman’s sensibility. Inspiration for the collection could come from many different things – a photograph, a piece of music or a time period. Every season I design around 1,000 styles and each with a theme. This spring has four distinctive collections: natural materials, natural leather, and neutral colours; light golds and metallics; pop art using the works of Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol; and the 80s, inspired by disco and Donna Summer. All my collections are ultra modern. The way a shoe is crafted is essential for success – without the skills of a real shoemaker a collection can never take form.
Women the world over obsess about gorgeous and expensive shoes, why do you think this is?
When a stylish lady wears a pair of beautiful heels, she is literally lifted up, not just in height but in confidence, and her persona changes. She becomes more sensual, more powerful, she feels important, feminine and believes she can do anything. I don’t like heavy shoes, all my designs have an air of sophistication and if buying a Dh3,000 pair of pumps makes a woman feel special that is fantastic. To take a step in a silk shoe is almost like going barefoot, there are no constrictions, you are loose, free.
How did you get into the shoe designing business?
I come from a small town in Italy called San Mauro, which has a long tradition of shoemaking. My family were ice cream makers, but as I grew up I knew I wanted to do something creative. I toyed with the idea of music, but that never came off so I started as an apprentice in a local company. I leant the trade and went from there. For the first 15 years, I was freelancing for various clothing and shoe companies, but 14 years ago, I decided to realise my dream and create a small collection using my name. This little thing is now an enormous business.
You only do a small collection of bags, do you have plans to expand the Zanotti brand?
I can understand other design houses doing full collections such as lifestyle, home and jewellery, it is a business. But my mission is to do shoes more, stay focused and to understand what I can do more for my women. Do I want to jump into another thing? No. I want to learn about myself and my identity. I do not want to outpace my company. My wife Cinzia did a lot to market the products and brought a competitive edge to my collections via ad campaigns, events and VIP endorsements and this has been good for business, so at present I’m sticking with shoes.
PROFILE: Giuseppe Zanotti, Shoe designer
Having begun his career as an apprentice, the Italian has now been designing women’s footwear for 25 years. In 1994 he set up his own business, which today sees profits in the millions. His collections, worn by celebrities the world over, range in price from Dh1,000 to more than Dh3,000 and are a mix of flats, pumps and stilettos.
In his spare time he listens to many types of music from artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Al Green to 70s’ funk and disco to modern R&B. He often uses music as inspiration for his designs.
The entrepreneur lives in Italy with his wife Cinzia.
Zanotti gets foot in door in Dubai