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Giuseppe Zanotti on Working With Kanye West and Future Hip Hop Collaborations

"[Kanye West] is a poet."
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In terms of what he designs and whom he collaborates with, Giuseppe Zanotti is not the most conventional of high-end shoe designers. Though, like many of them -- as we've noticed, he is a bit eccentric. "I'm a strange animal," he told me Thursday afternoon in Bergdorf Goodman's lovely second-floor shoe salon.

The Italian designer was on hand for a meet-and-greet to celebrate his 20th anniversary and to launch a special capsule collection, featuring six gold sandals, each one tied to some personal memory of his. One features a scorpion, a nod to Zanotti's father's astrological sign. Another, called the "Cruel Summer," features gold feathers and was inspired by a dinner with Kanye West.

Of course, this is not the first time Giuseppe Zanotti has done a shoe with West's involvement: There was that infamous pair they collaborated on for West's first Paris runway show, which wound up retailing at Colette for nearly $6,000. "The process was easy," Zanotti said of working with West. "I met Kanye in Milan during a charity event. He's very sweet, very sensitive and sometimes dangerous because he's sensitive. He's a good guy. Good heart. He's a poet. We met twice and then he asked to come into my maison because he wanted to understand the process of [creating a] collection of shoes and design. We started with something elegant for his runway, then we did something else -- sneakers -- together. He taught me something, I taught him something. Also, I showed him my archives of records and he sang something for me, for my team. It was good synergy, exchange of sensation and love."

In addition to his sky-high heels, Zanotti has also become known for his tricked-out sneakers, which have become particularly coveted by hip hop artists and their fans. He's already collaborated on a shoe with 2 Chainz and says he's in talks to do something with Kid Cudi, and possibly Will.I.Am and Nicki Minaj. So is Zanotti a hip hop fan himself?

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"I'm a big fan of artists. Some are hip hop, some are not. I think hip hop is a sound, it's an energy, but also it's poetry."

Indeed, there are other pop artists for whom he's developed a fondness: He also love Miley Cyrus. "If you see Miley Cyrus in the wrong things, I love all the wrong things together. Wrong shoes, wrong pants, wrong everything but she's perfect. And Gaga too."

Zanotti spent so much time talking about musicians -- he says he gets more inspiration from artists than he does from other designers -- we wondered if he wished he were more directly involved with that world. He did once work as a DJ before his shoe designing days. As he put it, "Maybe when I'm 84 I can change [careers]."