“It was in the morning, and she was without makeup in a casual setting [at her Los Angeles home, about two years ago],” Zanotti recalled. “She was beautiful as usual. She opened up her life to me, and I saw a lot of shoes from my collection from years ago. Somebody then asked if I wanted coffee, and when I went to look at the shoes, I was excited and forgot about my coffee. It spilled on the white carpet, and it was a disaster.”
While the designer was embarrassed about the incident, he soon felt at ease: “She was so kind with me.”
Lopez, a longtime Zanotti fan, only had fond memories of that meeting. “He is such a friendly and spontaneous man,” the singer-actress said. “I was immediately impressed by his sweet personality.”
The instant connection formed the seeds of the Giuseppe x Jennifer collaboration. For Lopez, it felt like a natural fit after years of wearing Zanotti’s shoes. “I have always loved his designs, but I became a real Zanotti fan when I got a pair of his high-heeled sneakers,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can live in these.’ ”
Zanotti started with prototypes for them to discuss and edit — and according to the designer, Lopez was definitely hands on. “She’s very tough because she knows what she wants,” he said. “She told me what to cut and what she loved.”
Lopez said Zanotti gave her an in-depth education about the intricacies of high-end footwear design.
“When you work with an artist like Giuseppe, who is so skilled with the details, you learn so much,” explained Lopez. “I would say, ‘Should we make the straps skinnier in the front?’ And he would say no. ‘Can I add crystals here?’ He would say yes. It was a fun collaboration.”
The result is a collection of sultry and edgy styles, including a platform sneaker, crystal stiletto booties, strappy sandals with ankle ties and gladiator heels with snakeskin touches. The debut collection, which launched last month, includes six silhouettes in hues such as navy, gray, blush and gold. In all, there are 15 styles ranging from $795 to $2,995. Retailers including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue picked up the collection, and it is nearly sold out at every store and on the pair’s website.
“The collaboration between Jennifer Lopez and Giuseppe Zanotti was a perfect match given their individual fashion sensibilities,” said Jonathan Joselove, SVP and GMM at Neiman Marcus.
The collab “reflects our DNAs,” Lopez added. “What I love most about Giuseppe is that he can mix skillful craftsmanship, gorgeous silhouettes and so much originality. He can truly make any woman feel confident and sexy. The level of quality and artistry makes him one of the very best shoe designers and someone I definitely wanted to work with.”
One style in particular, the crystal lace-up bootie, is a fan favorite. “It’s so fearless and beautiful,” said Lopez. Even at a price point of $2,995, the style sold out immediately.
“It’s very Vegas, and it’s very Jennifer,” said Zanotti, who sketched a drawing of the bootie as we spoke. “This woman loves something beautiful. Sexy for me is not vulgar; it speaks to the woman’s beauty.”
The Sin City-inspired styles will be front and center during Lopez’s residency at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas, where she is performing her “All I Have” show, which runs through October.
While many performers shy away from high heels onstage, height is never an issue for Lopez, according to Zanotti. “In the last 10 years, I’ve [created] a lot of custom-made shoes for her,” he said. “We wanted to do something cool and unexpected. She was born in a high stiletto and can dance easily.”
Lopez has “a few shoe secrets” for dancing in vertiginous looks.
“One is [to] switch heels,” she explained. “I never perform in the same shoes I wear on the red carpet. The shoes you dance in are typically different from shoes that you wear at premieres or in your private life. Switching shoes give your feet a break from the previous shape.”
Her second tip: “Try to find shoes with a little bit of a platform. It makes you feel more comfortable onstage.”
Finally, Lopez said it takes plenty of training. “Practice makes perfect,” she added. “By wearing heels frequently, you figure out how to distribute your weight and posture so that all the pressure isn’t only on the arches of your feet, which is what usually causes pain.”
Though Lopez considered her preference for height when designing the shoes, she also had certain people in mind while crafting the collection with Zanotti.
“I’m excited for when [7-year-old daughter] Emme grows up and can wear the shoe I named after her [a gladiator high-heel sandal],” she said. “The shoe is strong and fierce, just like her. My family — they’re my stability, they’re so solid for me. When you think of shoes, you think of being grounded. There is a connection for me.”
Another personal favorite is the Leslie, named after her sister Leslie Lopez. “It’s the sleekest, sexiest and the most minimal,” Jennifer said of the sandal with wraparound ankle straps. “I love the color of it, the blush pink, the little details. It’s very me and something I would wear often.”
After initial success and strong reviews, the teams created their second collection for fall ’17. The duo is planning four styles in different color combinations for a total of eight shoes.
“This is a good symphony,” Zanotti said of the opportunity to work with Lopez on two collections. (The designer recently collaborated with another artist: He launched a men’s collection with singer Zayn Malik last month. The styles include two boots and two sneakers priced between $795 and $1,295.)
In addition to the line with Lopez, Zanotti is now showing his core fall ’17 collection, which he described as his “movie” for the season.
“One era that’s important to me is the jazz era, the Roaring Twenties, so the styles represent a feminine woman,” he said. “The inspiration is 1920s, but the target is 2020. I added pieces that are rock ’n’ roll and some disco elements with sequins.”
And in his rare downtime, Zanotti is hoping to head to Sin City to catch one of Lopez’s shows as their relationship continues to blossom.
“She’s a strong woman with a strong personality and is fantastically rare,” he said. “For me, I was very honored to work with her.”
As for Lopez, the collaboration holds significant meaning: “I grew up with holes in my shoes, so this collaboration is very special to me — to be able to create such beautiful shoes with an artist like Giuseppe.”