Designer Boutique

Thursday, April 18th 2013

Designer Interview: Paul Andrew

Paul Andrew creates footwear with the seemingly impossible ability to turn heads without breaking ankles. His stunning designs match high-fashion style with hours-long comfort due to a meticulous obsession with fit. He filled us in on the inspiration behind his latest collection, his design process, and career advice he’s received from some of the top names in fashion.

SHOPBOP: What inspired the spring/summer 2013 collection?
PAUL ANDREW: I am something of a formalist, believing that good design is often inspired by good design. After a visit to the art space Dia:Beacon, I was incredibly inspired by Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses. The way his sculptures shape space rather than material is entrancing. It really affected my design process and the lines of the shoes.

SB: Impeccable craftsmanship, fit, and comfort are qualities of a Paul Andrew shoe, yet you never sacrifice style. How do you balance it all?
PA: Anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with the fit and comfort of my shoes! I hand-make the first prototype of every shoe and draw every pattern. I also work with tanneries, mills, and embroiderers to develop the majority of my materials to guarantee quality and exclusivity. This means a lot of travel between my design studio in NYC and the factory in Italy, where the shoes are handmade by a team of artisans. But, working in this way ensures the best results.

SB: Sleeker shapes have made their way back to the style scene. How do you keep a shoe sexy without going too severe?
PA: Platform footwear has certainly become the mainstream styling of today, but my focus has been to turn attention back to the exquisite lightness of the stiletto heel and single sole. I'm striving to create shoes that are sexy, yet sophisticated, with a fantastical influence from artisan—almost couture—techniques. For me, the key in making a single-sole shoe sexy without severity is to keep things light. Elegance and sophistication are in the details.

You’ve worked with a number of amazing designers. What was the best piece of advice you received?
PA: I am so fortunate to have worked alongside some of the most accomplished designers in the business. I've learned so much from each of them, so it's difficult to pinpoint a single piece of advice. As a design apprentice at Alexander McQueen, Lee's unfathomable creativity taught me a new way of thinking about design. After working with Narciso Rodriguez, his talent to simultaneously balance sleek lines, grown-up sophistication, and sex appeal has always stayed with me. Then, years at Calvin Klein taught me about standing firm to your original idea. And my last stop before launching my collection, the better part of a decade at Donna Karen, instilled in me the importance of original design, impeccable quality, fit, and comfort. I will always carry these ideals with me.

SB: If you could design a shoe for any woman in history, who would it be and why?
PA: I've always enjoyed watching films from the ’30s and ’40s, which has fostered a particular fondness for Ingrid Bergman, Gene Tierney, and especially Marlene Dietrich. I would have loved to have designed Marlene's shoes in Shanghai Express.

Shop Paul Andrew shoes.

Wednesday, August 31st 2011

Fine Form: Structural Outerwear

While I’ve never been one to look forward to fall, this season’s crop of crisp outerwear has almost reconciled me to the shift in seasons.

I expected the flapper-esque cocoon coat from Zero + Maria Cornejo to be my season’s top pick, but my surprising favorites are the futuristic Alexander Wang pre-fall jackets. Each one is unlike anything I’ve seen before: architectural, innovative, yet startlingly wearable. That said, there are times when nothing but fleece will do—for those days, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Yigal Azrouel have both put their unique spins on shearling, with weird and wonderful results.


Friday, August 26th 2011

Behind the Line: Yigal Azrouel & Cut25

Yigal Azrouël launched his eponymous label in 1998 and followed it with a contemporary counterpart, Cut25, in 2010. Here, we talk to the celebrated designer about his main line, its relationship to Cut25, and producing in New York’s Garment District.

Shopbop: Your line is known for draped, flattering silhouettes, but fall sees menswear influences mixed in as well. What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Yigal Azrouël: The fall 2011 collection celebrates the strength and power of artistic femininity and the discovery of seductive sensuality. The silhouettes were achieved through menswear references, and there is an emphasis on outerwear. The pieces were created by combining aspects of womenswear and menswear to achieve a sense of confidence.

SB: How is Cut25 similar to the main line? How is it different?
YA: The main line and Cut25 collections both use a mix of fabrics. Both collections have body-conscious dresses and several layering and suiting pieces. The main line is more exclusive. Cut25 has a lower price point, which makes it more accessible. The customer of Cut25 is younger and more downtown.

SB: Many of the pieces in both collections are made in NYC’s Garment District. What inspired the decision to keep production local?
YA: I was inspired to keep production local to give more attention and care to the garments. It is important for me to oversee all stages of the production process, and retailers love the idea of the quality control.

Monday, July 18th 2011

Zac Posen: The Pre-Fall Collection

Zac Posen dresses are immediately recognizable for the way they accent the wearer’s curves, and it’s no wonder: the native New Yorker’s first internship was at the Met’s Costume Institute, where he spent hours studying the construction of body-skimming dresses by Madame Vionnet, tracing seams and focusing on fit.

This attention to fit may have been sparked by Vionnet, but Zac Posen’s signature sense of the dramatic (nipped waists, eye-catching details, and glamorous ’40s-inspired silhouettes) is all his own. For his pre-fall collection, with its clean lines and black-heavy palette, the drama comes from leather and unexpected cutouts–but with a lookbook modeled by three sultry brunettes, including Crystal Renn, the effect is more sexy siren than edgy downtown girl.


Thursday, March 31st 2011

Designer Inspiration: Jenni Kayne Spring 2011

Sketch to runway: the Jenni Kayne Zip Pocket Blazer.

Drawing inspiration from the classic American road trip, the Jenni Kayne Spring 2011 collection has the California ease the line is known for, executed in crisp, classic lines. We asked the designer about her Zip Pocket Blazer:

“Jackets are de rigueur at JK, and this updated waxed-linen version is my new favorite. The longer silhouette looks fresh, and the color is neutral without being basic.”


For her spring 2011 collection, Jenni Kayne drew inspiration from that American classic: the road trip.

Jenni Kayne spring 2011 inspiration board.

Jenni Kayne spring 2011 inspiration board.

Monday, March 21st 2011

Designer Inspiration: Doo.Ri Spring 2011

Sketch and finished product: the Doo.Ri Long Sleeve Draped Dress.

Doo-Ri Chung’s spring 2011 collection is a study in complex minimalism. A neutral, monochromatic color palette mixes with interesting textures and the label’s signature draping for an understated aesthetic that defies simplicity. This theme of conflicting ideas has informed Chung’s sensibility since she launched Doo.Ri in 2003. “In my creative process, I am constantly thinking of juxtapositions of fixed versus fluid, tailored versus unconstructed,” she says. “New ways of approaching how women dress is a constant source of inspiration for me.”

We asked the designer to explain her approach to a single piece from the current collection. Here’s how she described designing the Long Sleeve Draped Dress:

“This dress was supposed to be something completely different. I had a specific design in mind when I started draping it on the mannequin, and it just evolved to this. You cannot always sketch exactly how things will turn out when draping, and you’ll discover great lines and elements of the silhouette as you’re playing with the jersey on the form.”


For her spring 2011 collection, Doo-Ri Chung channeled an icy, monochromatic aesthetic.

Thursday, March 10th 2011

Designer Inspiration: Jen Kao Spring 2011

At right, a sketch of the Jen Kao Tzigane Bustier Gown. At left, the gown in motion on the runway.

If Jen Kao’s designs hint at the artistic and the architectural, it is not an accident. The LA-born, Kansas-raised designer moved to New York in 1999 to study art at NYU, and her interest in three-dimensional design led her to experiment with textiles. She debuted her collection in 2008, and has since garnered fans and accolades from every corner of the fashion and art worlds.

Summing up her line’s aesthetic in two words—“easy dramatics”—Jen Kao dresses and skirts mingle fluid draping with artfully constructed tailoring, especially evident in the current spring collection. In her runway show last September, Kao paraded her designs down a sandy catwalk, with a backstory that involved, according to, “girls wandering the desert in an altered state where they find the man of their dreams.” The looks do have a certain ease about them, but the layers of fabric have a circular complexity—it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. It all plays together for a luxurious, passionate expression.


Jen Kao spring 2011 inspiration board, part 1.

Jen Kao spring 2011 inspiration board, part 2.

Wednesday, November 24th 2010

First Fashion: From Our Designer Boutique

(1) (2) (3)

This morning’s What’s New has a bit of a blockade right up front: new arrivals from T by Alexander Wang. It’s a siren song strong enough to distract this basics-beating heart, but I made it through, and the latest arrivals from our Designer Boutique were there to greet me.

(1) Simple, timeless, chic. Derek Lam has made that elusive creature: the wear-forever dress. Derek Lam - Sleeveless Dress with Neck Tie

(2) I’ve been flirting with the emerging cutout shoulders trend—still not quite sure what I think of it. This Ellery dress makes a strong “pro” argument. Ellery - Vir-bra Shirtdress

(3) A dress that’s flattering, comfortable, yet still feels avant-garde? Leave it to the French. Les Chiffoniers - Black & White Melange Zigzag Dress


Monday, October 11th 2010

Designer to Watch: Christopher Kane

Is it fair to call a young designer who has won the attention (and accolades) of fashion’s top editors, not to mention been courted by one of the biggest names in fashion, Donatella Versace, an up-and-comer? It would seem Christopher Kane has already arrived. With only five years under his belt, Kane is hardly a seasoned fashion veteran, but there is no denying he has a place in the upper echelons of the industry.

The designer graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins in 2006, and immediately began work on his namesake label, with the help of his sister, business partner, and fit model, Tammy Kane. He showed his first collection, neon body-con bandage dresses, in September 2006, and it was picked up by stores in London, Paris, and Milan. Since then, Christopher Kane has delivered season after season of well-constructed, forward fashion.

Kane caught the eye of Versace early in his career, and after some wooing, agreed to work on the brand’s Versus collection in 2008, turning out a capsule collection of accessories first, then dress ranges in the seasons following. Last month, a few days after he walked a return to neon down the London catwalk for his own spring 2011 collection, he staged his first Versus runway show in Milan. Both collections, naturally, were met with critical acclaim.

Check out our offering of Christopher Kane shoes, then hop over to W for a peek at their profile on the relationship between Kane and Versace.


Wednesday, November 25th 2009

Fashion Investments Elevate Everyday Essentials


We all love a fashion bargain (my current fave is an abstract-print Patterson J. Kincaid dress that someone mistook for Marni), but I would argue that a serious investment from an award-winning designer is something that brings your appreciation of fashion to a whole new level. Truly great design is timeless and, like a blue-chip stock, holds its value over the years, but what’s more, supporting artisanal clothing lines enables fashion talents to keep making beautiful things, a hard fact I hadn’t given much consideration until I saw Seamless. Previously I assumed that once the CFDA waved its magic wand over a designer’s head he or she lived in the lap of luxury, or at least comfortably in a floor-though loft or four-story brownstone. Apparently not. This documentary shows one top designer toiling away in the basement of her parents’ dry cleaning business. But I digress. Suffice to say, it’s a must-see.

Still, I appreciate all too well how pesky financial realities like grad school loans and car payments can keep even the most passionate fashion connoisseur from filling her closet with Kimberly Ovitz and Giuseppe Zanotti. So how do those of us without a trust fund or a Goldman Sachs bonus at our disposal do it? Limit yourself to two love-at-first-sight splurges a season. (In case you’re curious, my big ticket items were a Thakoon Addition dress and a Mulberry bag. And I may be hitting Santa up for a Herve Leger.) Distinctive but never gimmicky, these pedigreed pieces have the power to elevate the more pedestrian basics that make up the majority of most of our wardrobes. Python Sergio Rossi sandals bring instant fashion cred to a basic tee and baggy trousers, while Balmain gladiators make Monrow sweatpants worthy of Paris Fashion Week.

(See more ways to mix fashion’s blue-chip investments with affordable pieces in our Go High/Low lookbook.)


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