How Giuseppe Zanotti and Salvatore Ferragamo Used Car Painting Techniques in Their Fall Shoes

Salvatore Ferragamo F Wedge with galvanized
Salvatore Ferragamo F Wedge with galvanized heel.
Joshua Scott

From collaborations with auto manufacturers to harnessing car technology, footwear designers have a fascination with hot wheels. To explain why, Barneys New York creative director Matthew Mazzucca cited the fetish nature of both.

The store recently collaborated with Lexus on a window installation juxtaposing car parts with new arrivals from shoe and bag collections. “Shoes are objects of desire in the same way cars are,” Mazzucca said. “Both are connected through new and unique fabrication techniques, nostalgia and technology.”

As for innovation, it’s all in those “slight changes that only those who follow the industries understand,” he added.

Giuseppe Zanotti Unfinished Sneaker. Giuseppe Zanotti Unfinished sneaker. Giuseppe Zanotti

For the fall ’17 season, two shoe designers — Giuseppe Zanotti and Salvatore Ferragamo women’s footwear design director Paul Andrew — harnessed automobile-painting technology and applied it to their new creations.

“I believe that the footwear and automobile worlds are deeply intertwined — both are cool and much needed to get around,” quipped Zanotti.

The Italian designer and car buff got the idea for his Backstage capsule collection when his Aston Martin was undergoing a respray. “I took inspiration from a technique called car wrapping,” he said. “I loved how the exteriors of the car had a velvetlike texture, and I wanted to translate it into the making of a shoe.”

Salvatore Ferragamo F-Wedge heels. Salvatore Ferragamo F-Wedge heels. Joshua Scott

Two of his fall styles, the Miss Unfinished wedge and the Unfinished high-top sneaker, come in highly saturated, textured shades achieved through a special hand-spraying process called flocking, similar to airbrushing.

Andrew’s fall Ferragamo heels, meanwhile, were lacquered in a galvanized metal — the zinc coating used to protect the paint job of vehicles. And not only was this material borrowed from the automobile industry, it was actually applied in a car factory.

Andrew learned about the process from a conversation with a salesperson when he was buying a car. “It sparked the idea for me to use the same technology on heels,” he said. “I am interested to explore new ways of working that borrow from industries outside of footwear.”

Diego Vanassibara spring 2018. Diego Vanassibara spring 2018. Diego Vanassibara

Diego Vanassibara also takes cues from luxury wheels. “Wood looks very good with leather,” he said. “That’s something that car designers noticed a long time ago.” His spring ’18 collection features wooden buckles made from the same mahogany used for the interiors of a Rolls Royce.

However, Vanassibara pointed out that the relationship between the footwear and auto industries is more than skin-deep. “There’s a shared objective of offering people protection,” he said, “plus both industries pay attention to design, aesthetics and performance.”