10 facts about shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti that may shock you

10 facts about shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti that may shock you

The boy within

Text: Jolene Khor

Wild but lonely, bullied yet brave, we discover during our intimate chat that Giuseppe Zanotti is a man of many contradictions. Get to know the shoemaker like you never did before by perusing his ten scarcely known tidbits below.

His mother was the reason he fell in love with shoes.
"I was 9 years old. My mum she had these shoes, very pointy with a hole. They were grey shoes with a super stiletto, in nylon and aluminium. At the time, everything was handmade. Those shoes impressed me. I used to try them on because these shoes, they're very long and they represent the woman's body. This curve on the shoes, for me, is a woman's body in my imagination. When I was younger, I think about this because I wanted to be a designer. During that time, there weren't any designers, there were just some artisans. When I was nine or ten, I began to design."

His father's ice-cream parlour has been a key source of inspiration.
"My favourite flavour is pistachio! When I was young, one of my friends was like, 'Pistachio is disgusting!' and I was like 'Okay'. I was different - I like pistachio, I also like strawberry but you know the heel? I designed the heel of one of my shoes to look like ice-cream cones. This was 2006 or 2007." 

He was a rebellious boy.
"At 10 years old, and also at 12, 15, 16, I was an absolute enemy of the school. I was an enemy of the professor, enemy of the school, enemy of the state, enemy of the family, enemy of the traffic lights, enemy of the rules and of discipline. I'd do everything in opposites... the zebra walk, the pedestrian walk. I can never use the pedestrian walk. I don't like them. I would walk under the turnstiles at train stations also. All the time, I go under them. I was very rebellious. But now that I have two sons, I get very scared because I cannot tell my sons what I was like when I was their age."

... And a bit of a loner.
"My friends played football. Every body would play football. I hated football. Instead, I liked flowers. I love to arrange flowers. Also, the flavour of the seasons. I was able to cook when I was so young - I was six or seven when I learned to make bread, pasta, and soup from my grandmother. I was anti-social; I didn't have lots of friends. Any friend I had was very particular. I used to study in the afternoon then hang out with painters and other crazy people who were drunk. But they're artists, they write poetry. I was wild."

He felt discriminated by his peers because of his sexual orientation.
"I'm Italian but my first collection debut in New York because I had doubts. I was not proud of myself. I wasn't considered a real designer in Milan because I was not gay. It's true of the time, this part of the fashion system was normal. I was discriminated by the other designers... maybe it was my problem. I didn't trust myself. In America, nobody knew me so this experiment made me more sure of myself because all the markets were crazy about shoes. I was received well in New York and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. Then came France, Russia, and then finally Italy. In Italy, I have now three stores in Rome, three in Milan and Venice but I never did one single event or opening in Italy. Never ever. I never met any customer, any clientele. No parties, no cocktails. Never."

Though successful, he still struggles with his fear of judgement.
"From the beginning, everyone pushed me. My team would tell me, 'Do this event, do that event.' I created a lot of excuses: I'm sick. I'm not feeling well. I did shows in Paris, and of course in the United States and in Asia, but I'm shy. I don't know... I don't want to be judged by the Italians. Of course, everybody is judgemental. Singaporeans will judge their own Singapore designers. Whether it's good or not, even if it's not fantastic, some Italian people will say, 'I love you'. It's too much for me, I don't want it."

He doesn't like men's shoes.
"I don't like men's shoes. Men are really, really boring, super boring, especially when I was young. When I was 20, my dressing was unusual - my hair was blue, navy blue. This is normal now. But at that time, my family was very upset."

... Nor is he a fan of Christmas.
"I don't like Christmas Day or December 31st. I don't like anniversaries, because I feel sad. I'm happy, for example, when there's rain. Everyone says, 'Oh this day is so sad and rainy.' I don't like to do the same things they're doing. I am still a rebel inside. But of course, I love sunny days. Life is beautiful - we need to find another angle to see it."

He thinks Zayn Malik, with whom he designed a collection last year, is strange.
"Oh Malik, yes, he's very strange and peculiar. Strange because he's actually shy and sensitive. Strange because I'm strange too. People believe celebrities are super sparkling but they don't know the reality. The reality is that some artistes like to stay home. Just look at Michael Jackson - he was incredibly shy but in shows, he was a dynamite."

If he weren't a shoe designer, he would be a DJ.
"If I'm not a designer, I would be a DJ. Music is a part of my work because I cannot imagine a collection without a soundtrack. Sometimes I'm inspired by Prince or David Bowie or maybe something more contemporary, more hip-hop. Then there are moments I like more of the classics such as Vivaldi and Puccini. You see, to create an atmosphere, you need to find good music. It's instinctive, emotional. And also not boring. If you were to be shoe designer, a DJ, if you were to work in the kitchen as a chef, you need to be not boring. You need to reinterpret the classic plates. Similarly, when you create a playlist on your iPhone for yourself, it's not enough to simply put all the songs you enjoy together. You need to put a story together, using your perception of your consumers and what they want. There needs to be an arrangement. This part is soft, a little romantic, then there's a bit of Lana Del Rey, something from Beyoncé, something from Rihanna, some Nicki Minaj. And finally, a rock and roll explosion from the past like Nirvana."

Discover Giuseppe Zanotti's fall/winter 2017 collection:

Giuseppe Zanotti's fall/winter 2017 collection is available at #01-11A Ion Orchard.