From the experts: Prince of Shoes, Ernest Esposito interview

Who can say they had their portrait done by Andy Warhol?  Ernesto Esposito can.  He is one of the top art collectors and...literally the PRINCE of shoe design!  I am so happy to share this interview with Ernesto since he and I share the love for the arts, Napoli, and of course shoes. 

I met Ernesto a few years ago in Milan when I was starting to develop SantM. I was immediately intrigued and inspired by his knowledge and passion for shoes and understood why the footwear industry insiders called him "Prince of Shoes."  He designed for the best of the best in the fashion industry, but more importantly, he understands women and their feet. He has a cult following in the fashion industry and when I mention his name to others, they look at me as I have met the MAN.     

But this "fan" base extends beyond the shoe industry. When he walks down the streets of his hometown Napoli, he is treated as an unofficial prince of Napoli. Yes, because he is famous for his work but also because of his kindness to the people and his legacy.

It is an honor to get an intimate interview with Ernesto. Grazie to him and his niece Mariachiara.  


Min Santandrea
Founder, SantM

How did you become a shoe designer?

I have been working as a shoe designer since1971. I started my career with one of the most important shoemakers in the world, Sergio Rossi. This collaboration lasted for more than 15 years. In the 80's I moved to New York and joined the team of the young Marc Jacobs, where I stayed for nearly ten years. Following Chloè, Sonia Rykiel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Missoni, Elie Saab...

How many shoes have you designed?  Can you share your favorite design by you?

I can't count them... hundred thousand for sure. My favorite design is one of my iconic shoes, a peep-toe sandal with intertwining straps. Very sexy! 

Where do you get your inspiration? Who are the women you look at as your muse?

I take my inspiration from Italian art and design of the '60s. My muse is Sharon Stone in the movie"Casinò".

Why do you think Italians make the best shoes?

Italian craftsmanship is one of the best in the world for its excellence in production, hand made artistic design, and high-quality products.  

What makes shoes comfortable?  Good quality?

You need to have the right knowledge and expertise to create lasts that are comfortable, the quality is a priority!

What bothers you the most when you look at the current shoe market?

The competition is very high, there are brands that have a history behind, which are specialized in shoes and others that have a nice design but bad quality and very appealing prices. Not all the customers are able to distinguish and appreciate the real craftsmanship and the hard job that entails making a shoe. This worries and bothers me the most.

You love art as well.  How did you start collecting?

I started collecting in 1970 after visiting a Warhol exhibition at the Musée d’Arte Moderne de la Ville in Paris. After this stunning show, I acquired my first piece of art: the “Electric Chair,1964” by Andy Warhol thanks to the Neapolitan gallerist Lucio Amelio.

How many pairs of shoes do you own that is for you?

I have an archive of my shoes, very often I use them to develop the new collections and I have to say that many of them are super modern!

You are from Napoli and still, live in Napoli.  What you do love about Napoli?

I consider Napoli one of the most special spots on the heart….Its chaotic tiny streets, delicious food, sunny weather, and passionate people make this city unique. Andy Warhol also was in love with Naples; he defined it as the “Italian New York”.