When the shoe fits
Shoe designer Paul Andrew has found a natural home at Salvatore Ferragamo, where he is reinvigorating the classics
Paul Andrew’s new home at Salvatore Ferragamo
Paul Andrew is an Englishman in New York. At just 38, he has 20 years of experience as a shoemaker, and a name for designs that hark back to an era of elegance while still feeling thoroughly modern. In other words, he is a natural fit for the role of Women’s Footwear Design Director at Ferragamo. There are also pleasing parallels between his own design preferences and those of the company’s pioneering founder: just look at the suspended heels, futurist tweeds and sculptural forms that characterise both men’s shoes. Andrew can also relate to Salvatore Ferragamo’s taste for things new and his fixation for combining total comfort with sheer beauty. And just like Ferragamo, who spent time in America designing shoes for the big Hollywood stars of the 1920s, Andrew also found success in the States.
He got his start, however, in the UK working for Alexander McQueen. “We were just continuously pushing the limit,” he says, “but there wasn’t too much money in it, at least for me. My dad told me I had to make a living somehow.” So Paul flew to America. He went to “fitting school” under Narciso Rodriguez, and later worked for Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. In 2013 he founded the Paul Andrew brand, which won him the Footwear News Launch of the Year and the Who is on Next? Accessories Design of the Year awards.
Andrew’s first collection for Ferragamo was Pre-fall 2017, which was celebrated with a spectacular cocktail party at the brand’s Suria KLCC store. As his second collection hits stores this month, ELLE finds out how he intends to bring Salvatore’s message of modernity to millennials.
How did you feel about your appointment at salvatore Ferragamo?
It was an honour. For all of us, Ferragamo has always been an actual focus of study. Becoming Ferragamo’s first Women’s Footwear Design Director was staggering. But then again, it was a natural process. Our mindsets are similar: Salvatore went to the States, like me, to study anatomy. The fit was at the base of his stylistic research. I agree.
What was your first step in your new role?
I tested all the shoes in our archives. I had to understand things before I could make any changes. The construction of the new models is in keeping with our own times. The rest of the stuff dates back 20 years, and nothing new had been done since then. But today people are used to wearing sneakers, we do lots of yoga and running and Pilates. Our feet have changed along the way: they’re wider, and the
plantar fat pad has been reduced. I worked with all the new technologies available to make the new Ferragamo footwear. Feel how soft this paddle is [he hands over an F-wedge]: comfort goes hand in hand with aesthetics. That’s the cornerstone of Salvatore’s lesson. That’s become a rare combination these days, when there seems to be more focus on decoration.
Why is that?
Expressing your imagination helps to give us reassurance during dark moments in history. When everything out there seems frightening – the threat of terrorism, the raping of our planet – beauty makes us feel better. Salvatore’s most revolutionary ideas were born in times of crisis: there was poverty, quality raw materials were hard to find.
What struck you most about the archives?
Seeing how feet have evolved. Look how narrow and tiny Ingrid Bergman’s feet were, for example. And the arches used to be flatter. Today they’re definitely much higher. Nowadays the most common sizes are 38, 39, especially in Northern Europe, the USA and Canada. We even make a size 43 for women. That’s my size!
What surprised you most?
That there were over 14,000 pairs of shoes. It’s a footwear library, which we’re now digitalising. It took a while to go through the entire collection, and I discovered something new on every visit. Touching a sandal, an ankle boot, having them in your hands is an experience that reveals Salvatore’s secrets: the way the heels were attached, the reason a strap or a clasp was made in a certain way.
His use of colour seems to be functional.
For Ferragamo, colour was always fundamental. It dictated the form. I picked that up, especially in moulding the curvy silhouette of the F-wedge. That had faded out, but I thought they would make our traditional customers happy, and their daughters and granddaughters, too – the 30-year-olds, the millennials. We want to introduce the company to new generations. I like the sound of that, it reminds me of family. And Ferragamo is a family company. From Salvatore to his children and grandchildren, who carry on the tradition.
What inspires you?
The idea of architecture that’s sexy and steeped in character. Like the columns of ancient Rome. They’re sensual and strong. I softened them in the flower heels. You put them on and you feel invincible, beautiful, at ease. They come from a model designed in the 1930s. I also reissued his skinners, with the fly-knit fabric typical of sneakers. Awesome sandals, with sneaker comfort.
How did you hit it off with the craftsmen?
Incredibly well. One of the reasons Salvatore was able to be such an innovator was that he had a highly skilled staff in Tuscany. Making individual, curved and seamless pieces like the F-wedge wasn’t easy. The leather risked cracking or being marred. It doesn’t take much to compromise the magic of a heel that seems to flutter in midair.
Paul Andrew is the first Women’s Footwear Design Director at Ferragamo Shoes
Boots, RM3,750, Salvatore Ferragamo
Heels, RM4,690, Salvatore Ferragamo
Wedges, RM5,090, Salvatore Ferragamo
The famous F-wedge that Paul Andrew has brought back from the archives
Heels, RM3,190, Salvatore Ferragamo
Heels, RM3,190, Salvatore Ferragamo
Mules, RM3,750, Salvatore Ferragamo