BEST FOOT FORWARD Paul Andrew at Salvatore Ferragamo.
At Salvatore Ferragamo, PAUL ANDREW tweaks the house’s shoe heritage for a new generation — and a changing foot shape.
THESE DAYS, EVERYONE WEARS SNEAKERS SO OFTEN …” says Salvatore Ferragamo women’s footwear design director Paul Andrew, looking down at my navy blue Nikes. I laugh nervously. we’re in the Ferragamo showroom in Milan, surrounded by the sophisticated heels and dress flats Andrew has designed as part of his first collection for the iconic brand, and I’m wearing … a sports shoe. He’s not judging, though. After all, not even the house of Ferragamo is immune to the allure of sneakers. What he is doing is fixing a problem.“up until the 1980s, people didn’t wear sneakers, they wore formal dress shoes, and that meant their feet were narrower and more enclosed. also, everyone naturally had a lot more collagen on the ball of their foot, which is why I’ve added padding to the shoes, because people just don’t have it anymore,” he says, picking up a black pump and squeezing the insole before handing it over for me to feel. “the first thing I did when I started at Ferragamo was to study the lasts [the 3-D foot-shaped moulds on which shoes are constructed] to understand — how is the fit? And we really established that it was not perfect, which is sad because the house was built on that premise, so we changed the proportions and the length of the arch, the width of the insoles and other technical details like the padding. I wanted to make sure we have shoes that fit a modern foot.”
Andrew, a Brit turned Newyorker, has been in the shoe business for 18 years, and, before starting his own CFDA Awardwinning brand in 2013, worked for everyone from Calvin Klein to Donna Karan (“She taught me so much about comfort and fit, now it’s my passion too”). So it’s not surprising to hear that he walked into the Ferragamo job last year with a pretty thorough knowledge of the house’s archive. “As a shoe designer, it’s
the best archive in the world. Salvatore created the most iconic shoes in fashion,” he says. Still, that doesn’t mean there weren’t things to learn. “I knew a lot, but even though I had known the shoes visually, I didn’t really understand — ‘Oh my goodness, that was made in the 1930s, that was made in the 1940s ...’ — he was so ahead of the game.” Andrew is referring to some of the key styles he looked to for inspiration while designing the pre-fall 2017 collection, most notably the Invisible heel — or “‘F’ wedge”, as he refers to it — from 1947, a curvaceous cut-away gold wedge with a vamp (the front of the upper) made from a single strand of nylon thread, which went on to win the Neiman Marcus prize (the same year Christian Dior was awarded for his New Look). “Isn’t that wild? Could you imagine that walking down the street in 1947?”Andrew asks.
No, I cannot. But the shoe really is so modern, I can picture a pair walking down a street today. And so can Andrew, who has reimagined the F-wedge shape for a new generation of Ferragamo customers. taking a page out of Salvatore’s playbook, he’s utilised new technology to add an even more dramatic line to the wedge shape and incorporated it into sculpted boots (cut-away, ankle and overthe-knee) and ankle-strap pumps in lush purple, blush pink, red (very A/W 2017) and an evening-friendly black-and-gold combination. “it’s one of the most comfortable shoes on the market and you should see it on the foot — it looks like you are walking on air,” he enthuses.
The style is the most fashion-forward in the collection, which also includes homages to other Ferragamo icons: think Salvatore’s 1951 Kimo sock shoe. Andrew says, “he was the first designer to ever do a sock inside a shoe. In the new collection, we’ve made them with this fly-knit technology and the sock also comes out so you can wear the shoe without them as well.” also Column heels, a nod to a design first dreamt up in 1939 to appeal to Hollywood starlets, also feature heavily in the range. “when you look at them from underneath they have this sort of flower shape, but when you see it vertically they look like Roman columns. I like the detail because it speaks to architecture, it speaks to Italy and it’s also strong, and this is everything that we are as a brand,” andrew says. “and if you look closely, I have added these horizontal striations [linear marks] to the heels that mimic our iconic grosgrain bow. you’ll now see this detail on other elements moving forward, maybe as buttons or as accessories — who knows? There are so many possibilities.”
“Isn’t that wild? Could you imagine that walking down the street in 1947?”
Paul Andrew. Inset: his sketch of the Plain Wave Evening shoe with ‘F’ wedge.
Clockwise from this image: an archival Salvatore Ferragamo Column Heel Sandal from 1939; Salvatore Ferragamo boots, $2375, 1300 095 224; Andrew’s sketch of a Gancio shoe with Flower Heel; Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, $1375; the Invisible shoe from 1947.