Before one of his biggest fans Blake Lively arrived (and clusters of hyperventilating teens started gathering in the 8th Floor shoe department), StyleList got a chance to sit down with the Italian footwear designer -- who was wearing red,white and blue Nikes -- for an exclusive chat.
StyleList: You began designing shoes 25 years ago and you do hundreds of designs every season. How do you stay inspired?
Giuseppe Zanotti: When I start to design shoes, I think in terms of concepts. I write things down and I take pictures on my BlackBerry -- maybe of the leg of a chair that I like -- and send the shots to my assistants.
I don't believe in seasons and I don't design shoes like "Harry Potter" -- Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3. It's just the same woman who needs some new energy for herself.
SL: What did you think of Alexander McQueen's crazy 12-inch mutant-like shoes from his most recent collection, inspired by Darwin's "On the Origins of Species?"
GZ: In general, I don't like shoes by other designers. But I saw McQueen's shoes and they were like objects from another world. Personally, I liked them very much because it was a show. Women need to understand that the runway is theater. I'm sure there are everyday shoes in the collection, too.
SL: Would you ever do something so crazy?
GZ: McQueen is a designer of clothing and shoes and bags. But I am only a designer of shoes. And for me, I cannot forget that my mission is to create shoes for all occasions for the woman of the universe. I do fashionable shoes, but I can't forget the stability and the fit. The shoes are meant to be comfortable, and then sexy. Not the other way around.
SL: You make pretty expensive shoes. How has the recession affected your business? Do you design differently?
GZ: The recession was very negative for business and I had a lot of doubts about my strategy. My collection is consistently very expensive. But we needed to cut the costs, and when I tried to design the collection with this idea in my head, I was absolutely unhappy. I said, "Forget it, I don't want to change. I want to be free even if it's the last season I do a collection."
And I did a really beautiful collection and all of the customers loved it because my competitors were doing sad colors and little collections. We started out the year very well and I think after 5-6 months of not buying, women said it was enough! Now they wants things that are special.
SL: Jimmy Choo signed on to do a collection for H&M. Would you ever go the fast fashion route?
GZ: For myself, no. I saw my sandal in an H&M on Fifth Avenue. And I took a shot and sent to my friend and he goes, "It's not possible. They are the same." I'm not super happy when they copy my shoes, but I understand. It's nice when fashion is accessible to everybody.
If a girl loves Balmain, and needs to have something like it, it's nice that H&M does that. But I don't think Giuseppe Zanotti designing for another brand makes sense. Some designers have a house behind them, but I am physically here and I shouldn't have to put my name on something like that.
It's good in terms of popularity, but I think my customer wouldn't be happy. I respect when Karl Lagerfeld or Madonna do something with H&M. because they are personalities. But I'm a shoemaker, and if I did it for a cheaper price for incredible worldwide distribution, it doesn't make sense.
SL: We saw pictures of you laughing and hanging out with Rihanna at Fashion's Night Out. Are you doing any projects with her?
GZ: During that event I suggested some special shoes just for Rihanna that would be incredible. I explained that they would have fireworks and explosions on them. She loved the idea and she said she needed them immediately. They're in production now and they are beautiful.