With his first shoe collection for Salvatore Ferragamo making its debut, Paul Andrew has big shoes to fill. Justine Lee travels to Seoul for the launch and to meet the British designer
With his first shoe collection for Salvatore Ferragamo making its debut, Paul Andrew has big shoes to fill. We travel to Seoul for the launch and to meet the British designer
Darling, if you need air miles, I’m your man,” jokes Paul Andrew, Salvatore Ferragamo’s design director for women’s footwear, the brand’s first, as we meet on a sunny spring afternoon in Seoul. The British designer’s debut collection was shown recently in New York and Paris to representatives of a small group of publications, and now its roll-out is about to begin with a launch event in the South Korean capital. “I just got in from New York last night,” he says, looking surprisingly refreshed and ready to go after his 15-hour flight. And he’s got a tough schedule ahead of him. Andrew hasn’t been to Asia for almost two years, so he has decided to make the most of the trip; after Seoul, he and the Ferragamo team will be jetting off to Tokyo for a few days of research and to introduce the collection to the Japanese press, and then he’s off to Oman to speak at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference. But while he’s in Seoul, Andrew finds the time to talk to us about his journey thus far and his vision for the brand.
“WE’RE REINTRODUCING A LOT OF THINGS FROM THE ARCHIVE. IT’S INFLUENCING EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING WITHIN THE BRAND, AND THAT MAKES SENSE, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW THE BRAND WAS BORN”
How did your partnership with the brand come about?
I met the Ferragamo family last summer. We had a number of conversations and it just came down to the right timing, and we also had similar values in design and vision. We had an aligned vision on how to take the brand forward. I joined in September 2016 and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. The first collection was created in twoand-a-half months!
What’s the most important aspect of shoe design?
My primary concern for anything I design is fit and comfort. When I started at Ferragamo, I spent most of my time reworking the fit of every single shoe. I’m heavily involved in the production process, and the overarching theme of my first collection is high tech meets high craft. For example, we’ve added things like memory foam on soles and we’ve worked on taking out lining to make shoes softer and easier to break in.
How involved are you with production?
The production process is very important to me; that’s where I learn the most about fabrics, fit and the technical aspects. And the manufacturing prowess that’s now at my fingertips is astonishing. There’s a factory inside our office just outside Florence. So I can draw something in the morning and I’m able to see a prototype by the afternoon. As a shoe designer who lives in New York, with no manufacturing facilities, it’s impossible; it takes weeks.
How did you achieve the “high craft meets high tech” goal?
Ferragamo has been an iconic reference for shoe design and craftsmanship for nearly a century, so there’s a rich archive to work with. My role is to fuse this rich heritage with the latest innovations in materials and manufacture. We have heels made in sneaker factories; socks that accompany boots are made with technical flyknit, and there’s absolutely no stitching on them; some of our heels are lacquered in a car factory. I love the concept of high tech on footwear—it’s the way forward.
What’s it like having access to an extensive brand history?
There are over 15,000 pairs of shoes in the company archive. It’s quite overwhelming. When one really considers what Salvatore left behind—the legacy, the silhouettes—it’s actually mind boggling. He was so ahead of his time. The famous F wedge, which I’ve reinterpreted in this collection, he released in 1947. Can you imagine walking down the street wearing that then? The flower heel was introduced in the 1930s, which was also an incredible innovation. All these things from the archive we are taking and making new again. The shape of the heel has also found its way onto clothes as buttons, and we’re thinking about using it on a fragrance bottle.
You’ve worked with 14 brands on footwear lines. How is your experience influencing your role at Ferragamo?
I have a strong understanding of how to make a shoe work with ready-to-wear and runway collections, but at Ferragamo, we’re focusing on the notion of dressing from the shoe up. So you will see a lot of focus on our core competency—ferragamo started off as a footwear brand. Going forward, there’s going to be more focus on the shoes and building the ready-to-wear collections alongside the shoes. What people don’t know is that the design process for shoes takes much longer than it does for clothes. So, actually, the development of shoes begins way before the fashion.
WELL-HEELED Salvatore Ferragamo’s iconic F wedge reinterpreted by Paul Andrew in the house colours