In His Shoes
For the first time in its 90-year-old legacy, Salvatore Ferragamo takes on CFDA Award winner Paul Andrew as its latest women’s footwear design director. Amy Yasmine heads up to Seoul for a tête-à-tête with the designer, and uncovers the story behind his j
It’s one thing to join a house steeped in history, but quite another to lead it into the 21st century. For most, this might sound like a daunting task, and yet, Paul Andrew, the recently appointed women’s footwear design director at Salvatore Ferragamo, is taking it in full stride. You can tell instantly that he’s at ease with his new role at the storied house; all smiles and charmingly spirited at our first introduction, as he took me through his debut collection for the Pre-Fall ’17 season. “Part Zen master, part perfectionist,” I thought to myself, as he handed me pairs upon pairs of shoes to test drive and explained quite languidly at each transition. This is perhaps all down to his innate understanding of the craft itself, and the notion that sometimes fit-and-comfort precedes everything else. The line between Ferragamo and Andrew has blurred, and one that will be taken far beyond in times to come. First things first: How did this journey with Salvatore Ferragamo begin? The Ferragamo family contacted me in the late summer [of 2016], and it just felt like the right time for both of us. The right set of values were in place, we connected on everything, and it felt so perfect. Of course, knowing the archive and having an idea of what I could do with the brand and move it forward was very exciting. It was just an opportunity I couldn’t resist. How does it feel to be a part of this 90-year-old legacy? It’s an enormous honour but a lot of pressure at the same time. Also, to be the first shoe designer since Salvatore passed away in 1960 is a great privilege, and I’m really looking forward to moving the brand forward. That’s what really attracted them to me ... the idea that it is still a very significant business, even now, but I think they lost their way a little bit over the last couple of decades. It’s not about a revolution; it’s about an evolution, and reintroducing this beautiful Italian heritage brand to a new generation of consumers. As an Englishman, how do you balance your culture with that of this historic Italian house? I was born in England and lived in New York for 17 years, but I travel every month to Italy for my own brand and for other brands. I feel a great connection to Italy, and it doesn’t feel like such a huge transition. The only difference is working in such an enormous company. What is also wonderful is that Ferragamo is unlike all of these conglomerates like LVMH and Kering. Ferragamo is only Ferragamo, and that’s a unique and wonderful thing. How have you put your stamp on this collection, while considering Ferragamo’s signature house codes? All the ingredients are there. Ferragamo has an incredible archive with 15,000 pairs of shoes, and it’s just about reworking the ingredients in a new way to make them relevant for 2017 and beyond. It’s high-tech meets high craft, which you’ll see in all the different elements of the shoes. Let’s talk a little bit more about high-tech meets high craft. How does high-tech come into play? One doesn’t necessarily think of Ferragamo as high-tech today, but if you consider what Salvatore was doing in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, it was all about innovation. He was the first one to instill a metal shank into shoes, which allowed stilettos to stand on their own without collapsing. He was also the first designer to create the “F” wedge construction. So, it’s about re-engaging with that idea and concept, which is part of every single shoe in Milan. For Pre-Fall ’17, you drew inspiration from many of Mr. Ferragamo’s iconic designs. Which one resonated the most with you? Oh, there’s so many— that’s the incredible thing. The “F” wedges are definitely one of my favourites, and also the Gancio, which buckles are another great element I loved working with. One thing that I’ve discovered while going through the archives was that Salvatore travelled to Japan—one of the first designers to ever do so—and saw the geishas in Kyoto wearing the socks with the sandals over the top. When he came back to Italy, he designed this incredible Kimo shoe, which is a sock in a sandal, and you could remove the socks and have three different colours. So, I played with the idea of socks this season, like a sock bootie made in the Flyknit factory, or heels made with the same technique that rendered matte black cars. Do you think the introduction of tech to footwear is the direction we’re heading to right now? I’m less concerned about trends. I think more about the legacy of this house and what would make it relevant for today. The idea of innovation and technology is important in fashion but whether it’s a trend in every house, I’m not so sure. For us in Ferragamo, it just makes a lot of sense.