The History Behind Giuseppe Zanotti Shoes: Sky-High Heels, Luxury Sneakers and More

For 30 years, the Giuseppe Zanotti name has been synonymous with high-fashion stilettos and sandals that blend classic Italian craftsmanship with sculptural silhouettes and luxe embellishments.

Since his very first collection, released in 1994, the visionary Zanotti has continued to innovate and create one iconic shoe after another, from 2008’s architectural “Bloc” sandal to 2012’s “Tattoo” bootie, which was featured in the music video for Beyoncé’s “Mirrors.” His eponymous brand has evolved to include a sneaker collection, men’s footwear, bags, accessories and more, stocked by the world’s top retailers and coveted by celebrities and fashionistas alike.

More from Footwear News

Giuseppe Zanotti pre-fall 2024.
Giuseppe Zanotti pre-fall 2024. Giuseppe Zanotti

Here’s how Zanotti made it happen.

Made in Italy

Zanotti, who was born in San Mauro Pascoli, Italy, was fascinated with shoes from a very early age. After deciding to pursue a career designing women’s footwear in the 1980s, he worked as a freelancer, creating looks for luxury brands including Dior, Valentino, Gianfranco Ferré, Balmain and Roberto Cavalli.

By 1994, he was ready to strike out on his own. He acquired Vicini, a small manufacturing company based in his hometown, allowing him to continue the legacy of Italian shoemaking while having complete control over his own production.

Giuseppe Zanotti pre-fall 2024. Giuseppe Zanotti

He created his first eponymous collection — a colorful array of bejeweled styles — and presented it to buyers from the top American department stores. He landed his first orders from Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Neiman Marcus.

Building buzz

It wasn’t long before Zanotti became a darling of the fashion world, thanks to his high-art designs. He became a go-to for celebrities looking for show-stopping shoes to add a little sizzle to their red carpet looks. Madonna, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez were among his early fans.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 14:  Singer Beyonce Knowles (L) and Designer Giuseppe Zanotti attend the Giuseppe Zanotti Beverly Hills Store Opening on April 14, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Giuseppe Zanotti)
Beyoncé (L) and Giuseppe Zanotti at the Giuseppe Zanotti Beverly Hills Store Opening on April 14, 2015. Stefanie Keenan

His close relationships with music’s biggest stars would later lead to high-profile collaborations with Lopez, Rita Ora, Kanye West, Lady Gaga and others

Leveling up

As his business took off, Zanotti opened his first store in Milan in 2000, followed by locations in other major international cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Moscow.

By 2013, sales had surpassed $150 million, and the company got a fresh injection of capital when LVMH-backed L Capital (now L Catterton) acquired a 30 percent stake.

Getting casual

While Zanotti made a name for himself with his glamorous heels, he jumped into the sneaker market in 2010. The designer took his distinctive, maximalist aesthetic and applied it to luxury kicks that offered women a more casual, everyday alternative.

Giuseppe Zanotti Spring '16 Men's Collection
Zanotti Vegas high-top sneakers from his spring 2016 collection. Courtesy of brand.

Zanotti rolled out a men’s collection in 2012, featuring sneakers, sandals and even rhinestone-encrusted smoking slippers. Today, he offers an expansive men’s assortment of mostly sneakers, from simple slip-ons to rock-n-roll-inspired kicks detailed with gold accents, metal hardware and studs.


Like many luxury brands, Zanotti has tapped a long list of creative minds for buzzy collaborations that bring fresh points of view to his brand. He’s joined forces with the likes of Rita Ora, Jennifer Lopez, Christian Cowan, Swae Lee, Young Thug and Evan Mock. The industry veteran also mentors rising talent to help nurture the next generation. Last year, he teamed with shoe designer Nicolò Beretta to create a two-style capsule.

Giuseppe Zanotti pre-fall 2024.
Giuseppe Zanotti pre-fall 2024. Giuseppe Zanotti

Mining the archives

Over the years, Zanotti has amassed a veritable museum of unforgettable styles. To capitalize on these rich archives, his brand announced the debut of its Icons series in 2020, which would see the return of some of the most celebrated styles from across the decades — revamped with a contemporary spin. The idea is to introduce these footwear icons to a new generation of fashion fans.

MIAMI BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Giuseppe Zanotti shoe designs at the Giuseppe Zanotti Collection at Bal Harbour shops on October 18 , 2005 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Zanotti shoe designs at the his store in Miami, Fla., 2005. Getty Images

Production line

In addition to producing his own collections, Zanotti’s company has inked licensing deals to manufacture and distribute footwear lines for other brands. It announced partnerships with French brand Alexandre Vauthier in 2020 and Area in 2024.

Who owns the Giuseppe Zanotti shoe brand?

Zanotti maintains majority ownership of his namesake brand, and L Catterton remains a minority partner. Today, the company — which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year — is comprised of 11 subsidiaries and sells its products in 500 stores across 70 countries.

FNAA Designer of Year

Giuseppe Zanotti
Giuseppe Zanotti.Photo by Steve Eichner

In 2014, Giuseppe Zanotti received the FNAA 2014 Designer of the Year award. “I’m not a Michelangelo or a Da Vinci,” he said to FN. “My mission is to be at the service of the market. I have my vision … but they are the ones who ask for these shoes.”

Launch Gallery: Giuseppe Zanotti Fall 2022 Collection at Milan Fashion Week

Best of Footwear News

Sign up for FN's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.