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.
SB: 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.
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