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His sexy art in heels
by Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan

SHOEMAKER to the stars, Giuseppe Zanotti doesn't want to talk about shoes or even music today. That's quite a surprise since the Italian was a deejay in his younger days before his fascination with feet, women's feet specifically, brought him fame.

Shoes, well, that's something he makes, not something he talks about - at least not today. He prefers to talk about art, or what he calls "part of the possibility of doing something better".

"People can reinterpret art in a lot of things. They are like chefs who cook according to their cooking DNA. You can taste the same food by three chefs, and they all have some differences. That's art.

"I didn't invent shoes. I just inject my formula and recipe to what I do."

While some designers have lofty aspirations for their designs, Zanotti's philosophy is grounded, even when designing 13cm heels! Dressed in an off-white blazer on top of a black T-shirt, cotton pants and canvas shoes, Zanotti, in his trademark black-rimmed glasses, looks more like an arts professor than a shoe designer.

"I like sexy shoes. I don't like vulgar shoes or crazy shoes. They are dangerous on the runways and dangerous for women.

"I don't design to pander to my ego or shout to the world that this is my design. Little details such as proportion and colour combination make a difference in shoes. You often get good results by just doing little tweaks here and there.

"Shoes are pieces of art, but they are shoes. They are meant to be worn and not framed. It's not just something beautiful for you to see," he says.

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Zanotti, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the brand's party, takes his shoe-making business seriously. In 1994, he took over a small shoe-making company and started designing and manufacturing his shoes.

With a team of 15, including a jeweller, a heel and tree expert, and an embroiderer, he started his ambitious project. From the start, his mission has been to make good quality and expensive shoes that make women feel better when wearing them.

Now, Zanotti has a 420-strong team. Each pair of shoes is produced in-house.

"Some people sell shoes like a business. They want to keep cost low and sell more.

"We may not make millions in turnover, but we do things our way. I'm not worried about low-priced shoes. It's good to have fashion at low prices. But my culture (his birth place, San Mauro Pascoli, is known for luxury shoe-making) is to make luxury shoes."

His shoes can be found in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols in London, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys in New York, and a host of big departmental stores. They have graced the feet of superstars such as Beyonce, Kylie Minogue, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Katy Perry.

What is it, I asked him, with women and shoes? Is it because of shows such as Sex and The City? He scoffs immediately: "They're not so stupid, these women." I suddenly realise that so much of this Italian is still deeply rooted in European tradition, not American pop culture, no matter how much the latter has influenced modern living.

He says: "That TV series gives a wrong impression of women. They don't live like that. And I know a lot of women. I know actresses and even their lives are not like that.

"You cannot have that kind of life. For a day, maybe, but for life, no. Sex and The City is like a soap opera. It's good, but it's not real."

Zanotti thinks women shop for shoes to feel better or sexier.

"Shoes are little renovations to the wardrobe. It's like playing with dolls."

That said, he doesn't believe a woman needs a walk-in wardrobe brimming with footwear to make her happy.

"You need a plain black pump - it's elegant - a pair of flat boots when the temperature is colder, a pair of ballerina flats is a must for walking, and a pair of evening sandals with heels for a special party on New Year's Eve or your birthday."

Just four pairs. Well, most women I know have many more. And therein lies the difference: Women buy shoes, but Zanotti looks at them as art pieces - bought in small numbers, but each with exceptional quality.

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