'I’m Not Scared to Be Different': Swae Lee's New Collab With Giuseppe Zanotti Makes a Bop Out of Gender Blurring

Swae Lee attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Swae Lee attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

He famously helped Beyoncé get in “Formation”—and the rest of us get into the “No Flex Zone.” Now, Swae Lee, one half of sibling hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, is bringing his unique style to fashion, releasing a capsule collection with luxury footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti. What’s more? The line of sneakers, loafers, and shoes sporting floral, glitter and rhinestone embellishments—and heavy doses of pink—is distinctly gender-neutral.


Speaking on the collaboration with Footwear News, the 26-year-old musician-turned-designer challenged the notion that the line is too feminine for the hip-hop crowd.


“A lot of [rappers] are fucking scared to wear shit,” he said. “They want to think the old ways and put a limit on that shit. I’m not scared to be different.”

Case in point: legacy hip-hop publication XXL ran the headline “Swae Lee Is Designing Men’s Heels,” despite that the heel height and style of the bootie in the collection are on par with a traditional ‘60s Chelsea boot (appropriate for the “Black Beatles”)—as well as traditional cowboy boots. (Seriously, why y’all so scared? How, Swae?)

And as the Tupelo, Miss.-born Lee, who debuted the line at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Brickell City Centre location during Super Bowl weekend, told the outlet:

“Even growing up, we used to rap about Giuseppes. Everybody in the hood wanted them. We couldn’t afford it, so you were a real high-end dude if you wore Giuseppes. You were going to make a lot of noise and turn heads if you came through wearing them.”


Zanotti tells FT Lee was very hands-on in the creation of his first collection, even presenting his own sketches.


“The perfect collaboration is about respect,” said Zanotti. “We need to balance each other. That’s why I need to know the person. It’s not enough to read a story. I have to touch, find that chemistry.”

It may not have been a chemistry anyone would’ve predicted, but of their first meeting, the Italian designer recalls: “I thought, ‘Why is this guy so elegant?’ With dressy shoes and jackets. It’s crazy. And his hair and tattoos. He’s a modern artist...He’s the new generation. He has something different than others. It’s crazy in a good way. Sometimes absolutely opposites work.”


As for the collection itself, it’s clearly made for spring...and some much-needed fun. “I was making something to go on someone’s body, to complete their outfit, the shoe completes a look,” said Swae, who first debuted a glittery pair of booties from the collection with a white pantsuit from Peter Dundas’ women’s collection at the 2020 Grammys.


“It was up to me to make the most key part of the outfit, so it was way different,” Lee added. “Now I’m helping people with their well-being. This is their image. That’s important.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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Murry Chang

Thanks for the Crabapples, Guiseppe!