Paul Andrew on Stepping into Shoe Design at Salvatore Ferragamo

by Paige Reddinger

Even the most iconic accessories purveyors require an occasional update, and now, Salvatore Ferragamo has enlisted Paul Andrew to take its footwear collection into an entirely new direction. Meet the creative director that the fashion world is buzzing about!

How did you first dip your toes into shoe design?
Fashion was always my first interest, and my career path became clear quite early in life. Growing up, I enjoyed architecture and art, and in high school my favorite class was design technology. I loved the idea of designing something that could enhance a person’s life, and then being able to create it using modern technological advances. When it came time to choose a field of study for university, fashion footwear design seemed like the perfect amalgamation of all my interests. I actually set out to study ready-to-wear design, but a professor noticed I had a specific talent for shoes and urged me to cultivate that craft. The aspect of designing footwear that I love so much is how a woman’s demeanor, posture, and attitude can be changed due to her shoes. Sliding on a sexy heel alters the way she walks, carries herself, and positions her body; shoes have an incredible power to shape a woman’s presence.

Who has influenced your love of design?
My father was the Queen’s upholsterer at Windsor Castle, and being surrounded by luxurious textiles and artisan craftsmanship was an enormous influence. Even as a young child I would save my pocket money in order to buy fashion magazines. Before launching my eponymous collection, I worked for 15 years behind the scenes for several fashion luminaries. I enjoyed working with them all for different reasons: Alexander McQueen for his boundless creativity, Narciso Rodriguez for his clean, sexy aesthetic, Calvin Klein for his unwavering commitment to minimalistic design—specifically, with Donna Karan, where I was the head of design for shoes and accessories for 10 years, I was pushed to think about comfort and the needs and desires of a real woman.

You started your eponymous label only four years ago. What did you think when Ferragamo came calling?
Of course, I was incredibly honored. I have always felt that the Ferragamo house is so unique, not only because of its storied past and a design heritage, which is still very much relevant today, but it’s also unique in today’s industry landscape of mega fashion conglomerates that operate long inventories of brands. What I like is the balance of a world-class brand, with world-class appeal, and a house that remains still very true and close to its roots.

What were they looking for?
Essentially, they were looking for a fresh perspective and careful thought. I am not responsible for, nor do I want to reconceptualize, the entire house in one sweep. The business and client base are too significant to do that. I am taking it step by step. Bringing in new ideas for product, presentation, the assortment, the marketing, the store experience, and hopefully shining new light on the inherent brilliance of the brand.

What do you think women are looking for in footwear today?
The multifaceted woman of 2017 needs a multifaceted shoe. She needs something that can carry her through the day, and night, with ease. It’s imperative that function coexists with form.

What were your goals when you first sat down to design?
My ultimate goal is to maintain Ferragamo’s relationship with its loyal clientele, but simultaneously introduce the brand to a new and younger generation. I’m introducing a broader range of product functions, a fresh color palette, and innovative materials that will hopefully resonate to a younger woman.

Tell us about the new materials you are introducing.
When Salvatore was developing footwear in the ’20s and ’30s, he was utilizing cutting-edge technologies and innovation coupled with materials made by master craftsmen. I embraced our similar passion and stayed true to the brand’s genuine harmony of high-tech and artisanship. We’re sending shoes to car factories to be galvanized with special metals, re-imagining lightweight knit fabrics and making them in flyknit factories, and triple dying suede leathers to enhance their brilliance. High-tech meets high-craft meets high-touch has become my overarching design principle to take the brand forward.

What did you learn when you began to dig through the archives?
It’s impossible to understand the breadth of Ferragamo until you see the outstanding archives. One of my favorite styles from the collection is an updated version of the “F” wedge—a heel that Salvatore originally created in the 1940s. I have also updated the signature Varina ballerina flat by using technical nylon webbing instead of traditional silk grosgrain ribbon: a nod to my high-tech, high-craft concept.

Ferragamo has had ties to Hollywood since the early 20th century. Which stars would you love to see wearing your shoes?
As with my namesake brand, I’ve been fortunate to have organic support from Hollywood, including the likes of Jessica Chastain, Emma Watson, Cate Blanchett, Allison Williams, Lupita Nyong’o, and Amal Clooney, among others. My hope is that my Ferragamo designs will strike the same chord with Hollywood’s leading ladies.

Do you think about the shoes each season in terms of the collection or are they designed separately?
For me, it’s essential to think of a season collectively when sitting down to design. Of course, there will be distinguishing details and certain highlights on specific styles, but the idea is to have a cohesive collection when the process is done.

How closely do you work with womenswear design director Fulvio Rigoni?
Fulvio and I have a great relationship built on mutual respect and admiration for each other’s individual expertise. He and I speak often.

What do you think of Florence?
It’s undoubtedly beautiful and is essentially now my second home. My time in Florence is admittedly predominantly work, so I don’t find myself with a tremendous amount of idle time. But if I am fortunate enough to have a free afternoon, I love to visit the Uffizi museum and wander among the Bronzino and Botticelli paintings. If I happen to be there over the weekend, I try to take advantage and enjoy the Tuscan countryside. I’m very fond of Siena, and always look forward to spending time at Castel Monastero, an 11th-century monastery and village that’s been restored into the most picturesque hotel resort.

How often do you have to travel to Italy?
I now split my time between NYC and Florence. I am there about two weeks a month.

Preferred airline?
I’m now a Diamond Medallion Delta flier—I take the same flight so often that the crew and pilot know me!

Favorite pasta?
I actually don’t eat pasta! I really try my best to stick with grilled fish and vegetables, which sounds so boring…but in Italy, no food is boring; everything is tastier.

Favorite wine?
Sauvignon Collio Russiz Superiore.

When you finally have a chance to unwind, where do you like to escape?
If I find myself with a spare weekend between my travels to and from Italy, I retreat to my country house in Litchfield County, Connecticut. It’s an incredibly serene environment, and the rolling landscape reminds me of where I grew up in England.

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