LONDON – In or out of the European Union, London remains key for Giuseppe Zanotti, the Italian footwear designer who has opened his largest flagship store in the former Donna Karan space on Conduit Street near Oxford Circus, a thoroughfare that’s fast becoming a nexus of international luxury brands.
Giuseppe Zanotti Design has taken over all three floors of an historic Georgian building for its first London store to house all of the brand’s glamorous, high-sparkle collections: women’s, men’s, children’s, jewelry, bags and ready-to-wear. There’s even a dedicated bridal section in the 2,300 square feet of selling space.
Zanotti has two smaller stores in London, one on Sloane Street that sells women’s and one in Belgravia focused on men’s.
In an interview, the designer said 95 percent of his sales are international and called London “an important crossroads, with clients from China, India, the Middle East, and we sell very well in England generally. We needed the visibility, the framework for telling our story. We’re an independent brand – and the designer is still alive!” said the jovial Zanotti from behind a pair of round glasses with thick black rims.
He added that while the weak pound happens to be a boon now, the store has been in the works for two years and would have opened regardless of the Brexit referendum result.
The brand, which counts the private equity firm L Catterton as a minority investor, has recently opened its first directly operated Moscow store, in addition to three franchises in the Russian capital.
Giuseppe Zanotti Design will expand next into Asia, with its first boutique launch in Vietnam in December and openings in Tokyo and Singapore in the first half of 2017. The label has approximately 100 stores globally and sells in 75 countries.
The London unit is bright, with clean lines and a contrasting color palette of electric blue, dark gold and shiny metallic surfaces. Walls and floors are clad in white boiserie and marble, with brass details.
Features include mirrored brass bars on one wall and a silvery, cylindrical dressing room on the ground floor.
The front of the boutique has a large bay window overlooking Conduit Street, while the green garden space (also a part of the former Donna Karan store) at the back will be open to customers.
Women’s wear, including a capsule collection of hand-painted boots and bags, is on the ground floor, with the upstairs dedicated to men’s wear.
The spring/summer 2017 collection is currently on show. Inspired by Botticelli’s ethereal ladies, the styles feature butterfly appliqués on strappy sandals, jewels on dusty pink trainers or chunky flat sandals, and a new 4-cm (1.57-inch) block heel on pumps.
Zanotti said that while the business has changed considerably — and become more challenging — since he started in the ’90s, the important thing is to remain flexible.
“Business changes, and you have to keep thinking how to change, how to be exciting and still remain relevant to your brand codes. Today, fashion is no longer about the runway; sport has become fashion, and low heels can be feminine and sexy.”
Zanotti is also moving ahead with his celebrity collaborations. He plans to launch Giuseppe for Jennifer Lopez, a new footwear capsule collection designed with the American singer, in January with Neiman Marcus in L.A.
The limited-edition lineup features six styles, with prices ranging from $795 to $2,995. It will be available in select Giuseppe Zanotti Design stores, on giuseppezanottidesign.com and at retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom.
Zanotti has also worked with Kanye West, Zayn Malik and G-Dragon, the South Korean singer. He said he loves working with musicians and finds them inspirational.
His business has overcome a series of challenges this year. The U.S. is the brand’s biggest market, generating about one-third of sales, and CEO Eugenio Morselli said the U.S. department stores’ sluggish performance and the upcoming Presidential election have dented sales. He also noted that import tariffs imposed by countries such as China and Japan are weighing on sales.
The brand continues to grow, though not as fast as in past years, which notched 40 percent increases. Morselli said that this year, growth will be around 7 percent, with sales of about 172 million euros, or $187 million. Growth will be in the high single digits next year, and the brand will continue to meet its targets, he added. The brand’s fiscal year ends on Oct. 30.
Morselli added that online will be a great driver of future growth via the brand’s own e-commerce and also through sites such as saksfifthavenue.com and neimanmarcus.com.
“The market is unstable, and the best we can do is to overcome those obstacles and build the framework for a future when things are better. The London store is a true showcase for the brand,” said Zanotti.