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San Mauro Pascoli, Italy
Through his wholly owned company, Vicini S.p.A, he manufacturers his eponymous label, Giuseppe Zanotti, which is distributed in 75 countries worldwide through a network of directly operated boutiques, franchisees and luxury retailers.
Born on April 17, 1957, Zanotti grew up in the small village of San Mauro Pascoli in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy —which is located just outside the seaside resort of Rimini, the town and its surrounding area is known for high-end shoe-making tradition.
“I was always obsessed with shoes,” Giuseppe Zanotti said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar Australia in 2014. “I think the first pair I remember were my mother’s. I was only seven or eight and I remember being impressed with the shape of the toe.” 
Drawn to art, design, music and fashion, Zanotti first expressed his creative point of view as a radio DJ in the early Eighties. It was the start of the golden age of Italian prêt-à-porter' and the night life drew in the biggest names of fashion from around the world.
Spurred by the developments and international interest around Italian fashion, in the 80's Zanotti decided to pursue a career in making women's shoes. His initial foray was as a freelance designer, and worked his way to recognizable fashion houses.
By the early nineties, Zanotti wanted branch out on his own and create a distinct style of footwear, particularly ornate with oversized crystals and stones usually used in the manufacturing of bijoux jewelry.
His goal was to create more than just a luxury shoe manufacturer. He wanted to establish the equivalent of a couture atelier for footwear—an operation that could execute his intricate shoe designs with the highest quality craftsmanship. He acquired the Vicini shoe factory located in his hometown of San Mauro Pascoli and set about recasting the small company. He moved his style team there and implemented new departments specialized in producing heels and ornamental jewels. He also brought in skilled embroiderers and other craft artisans.
In the spring of 1994, Zanotti traveled to New York City to present his first Giuseppe Zanotti collection to a select group of fashion editors and retailers. Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s New York were among the first luxury retailers to pick up the collection and remain retailers of the brand today, along with retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, among others.
The first Giuseppe Zanotti boutique opened in Milan in 2000, followed by additional stores in New York City, Paris, London, Moscow, Hong Kong, Miami, Los Angeles and Saint Tropez. In 2016, Giuseppe Zanotti celebrated the opening of its 100th flagship store at IFC in Shanghai.
Vicini Sp.A., which started as a small manufacturing entity, today counts five company-owned factories specialized in all the phases of luxury shoe making and employees 650 people who help to produce more than 600,000 pairs of shoes annually.
Capitalizing on the popularity of his women’s shoes, Zanotti has expanded his product offering over the past several years. Following the same creative impulses that guided the design of his women’s footwear collections, in 2010 he introduced a line of leather luxury sneakers, melding street style with couture decorations. They featured all of Zanotti’s hallmarks, including crystal embroidery, metal hardware and unexpected design contrasts.
“I compare sneakers to jeans, which are the most incredible form of unisex fashion.” Zanotti said in an interview in 2014. “They both don’t have rules.” 
In the Fall Winter 2010 season, Zanotti also presented his first jewelry collection. Inspired by the same decorative elements used on his stilettos and platforms, the bijoux offering featured oversized, sculptural necklace, bracelets and rings, embellished with crystals and colored stones.
“The jewelry line is a strong, modern decorative statement.” Giuseppe Zanotti said at the time of the launch.
Two years later, Zanotti launched his first men’s footwear collection. Zanotti's designs were made to appeal to fashion-forward men through a variety of sneaker designs.
In the Fall Winter 2014 season, to celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, Zanotti introduced a special footwear collection along with two capsule collections: ready-to-wear and a new line of handbags.
Dubbed Leather-to-Wear, the men and women’s clothing collection has evolved into a curated line-up of special leather pieces, including motorcycle jackets, moto-inspired pants and vests, among other luxury essentials. Channeling the same design ethos as he had for his footwear collections, the pieces featured jewel embellishments, chunky gold zippers and artisan embroidery work.
The special handbag collection, called G#17, epitomized Zanotti’s signature glamour. Biker buckles and a special golden relief of the designer’s monogram were some of the key design elements donning the collection of totes, clutches and mini chain shoulder bags.
Inspiration, Style & Craftsmanship
“I’ve always been curious and for me the most important job a designer has is to continually find new creative points of view.” Zanotti has said. “It’s imperative to always have a repertory of ideas and images. They can come from music videos, art exhibits, film, design and the street—everything that reflects changes in taste and style.”
Zanotti channels inspiration from the worlds of music, film, art, and architecture into his signature collections, marrying a contemporary fashion point of view with traditional craftsmanship. Gold, jewels and a rock‘n’roll vibe are hallmarks of his style.
“Music has the incredible power to transmit emotions,” Zanotti said during his brand’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2014, “I want my shoes to have that same impact.”
Described as a “shoe maestro” by InStyle US, Giuseppe Zanotti’s creations have been called “sensual,” “edgy,” “urban,” “ornate,” and as CR magazine wrote in 2014, “synonymous with undeniable Italian glamour.”
That glamour and intricate design is a result of close to 200 separate operations, the majority of which are executed by hand. From the research of materials, including crystals, embroidery and gemstones to the heel modeling and final construction, the process is painstaking and often customized.
Organized more like a “made to measure” workshop, Vicini S.p.A produces almost 2,000 different models of shoes every year in minimal production lots.
“Luxury is deeply rooted in the rich heritage of Italian craftsmanship,” Zanotti said in an interview in 2014. It’s molded by the work of skilled artisans, the finest fabrics, softest leathers and perfect finishings. For me, it’s incorporating modern and innovative designs with the tradition of being made in Italy.” 
Celebrity and Pop Culture
From the brand’s earliest beginnings, Giuseppe Zanotti has attracted a bevy of actors and musicians, both on stage, on screen, and off.
A-listers who have worn his creations including Madonna, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Heidi Klum, Ciara, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Janet Jackson, and many more.
Of note, Madonna wore Giuseppe Zanotti sandals in her 1998 “The Power of Goodbye” music video.
Giuseppe Zanotti crafted custom heels for Selena Gomez’s Revival Tour, Rihanna’s Anti World Tour, Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable Tour, FKA Twigs Congregata Tour, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball and Art Rave tours, Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz Tour and Beyoncé’s MRS Carter Show World Tour, among others.
In July 2009, Giuseppe Zanotti crafted three exclusive styles for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” series of shows at the O2 Arena in London. Upon his death, one of the pairs was auctioned off during the amfAR gala dinner in Milan where his sister, Janet Jackson, a personal friend of Giuseppe, bid on them.
For two consecutive years, 2010 and 2011, Giuseppe Zanotti exclusively designed a collection of custom footwear for the Victoria’s Secrets fashion shows.
In 2011, artist Kanye West reached out to Giuseppe Zanotti to design shoes for his debut fashion show in Paris.
Awards & Honors
Giuseppe Zanotti has been named designer of the year four times by Footwear News, in 2000, 2007, 2009 and 2014, respectively. He has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2002. In 2003, he received the award Manufacturer of the Year from Footwear News, Anci, and the Italian Trade Commission.
He was awarded the Prix d’Excellence de la Mode by Marie Claire France for Best Footwear Collection in 2010.
- Official website biography
- Pieri, Kerry, ZANOTTI CELEBRATES 20 YEARS, retrieved 18 April 2014
- Lundstrom Halbert, Mosha, Designer of the Year: Giuseppe Zanotti, retrieved 1 December 2014
- Leach, Alec, Highsnobiety Q&A: Giuseppe Zanotti Talks Luxury, the Sneaker Industry and Working with Kanye West, retrieved 5 August 2006
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