On Friday, April 10, fab footwear designer Paul Andrew arrives at Stanley Korshak in Dallas to meet customers and sign shoes from 1 to 3 pm. Below is Steven Hempel’s chat with Andrew from our November 2014 print issue. A few days after it went to press, Andrew won the 2014 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, announced at a dinner hosted by Seth Meyers and Stella McCartney at Spring Studios in New York City.
Paul Andrew is not your average cobbler. The luxury shoe designer has woven his way through the fashion world while working with some of the most iconic names in the industry. Starting with Alexander McQueen, then Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein and finally Donna Karan, Andrew learned from each and launched his own line of women’s shoes in 2013. His first collection garnered praise throughout the industry and laid a strong foundation for the brand. Now hard at work on his Spring 2015 collection, Andrew — who is currently one of 10 finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award — carved out a few minutes to discuss life as a designer.
How is the CFDA going?
It’s been an interesting process, almost like taking on another full-time job. It has been teaching me a lot about my brand and my business and making me think about things I do in a very different way. When you start a business like this, you jump in headfirst and are suddenly entrenched in all the day-to-day activities of the job. You don’t have the opportunity to step back and look at the landscape, understand where you are going and where you’ve been.
A Masters in fashion.
I graduated university in the late ’90s in England and entered a competition called Graduate Fashion Week in London, in which all the top colleges put forward their best students, and I was fortunate to win. American Vogue wrote an amazing piece about me, and I was introduced to Alexander McQueen, and that’s sort of how I got my first job out of school. At a certain point, I realized I needed a job that paid a little more (McQueen not being then what it is now), so I called the accessories director of Vogue UK, and she introduced me to a lot of NY-based designers. I moved [to NYC] in 1999 and worked with Narciso Rodriguez for one year, then Calvin Klein for three. When he retired, he introduced me to Donna Karan, where I worked for the better part of 10 years.
McQueen was all about taking a sketch to a totally different level and getting you to think outside the box. He got my creative juices flowing. Narciso was about toning back, streamlining everything, creating clean lines and modernism, while Calvin had an idea and never wavered; he taught me the importance of staying true to your original idea and not getting distracted. Donna taught me about the importance of fit and comfort, ideals that are so important to me now and a key element of what I do.
What kind of designer are you?
A lot of what I do is my own ideas mixed with what women really want from a shoe. I have built a core business out of our signature pump with wing detail. It has become a very important piece for us.
The evolution of the style.
Spending 15 years working with iconic fashion designers — while flying back and forth to Italy almost 10 times a year — really taught me the craft of shoemaking. And that is so important to what we do. I’ve always been drawn toward an elegant single-sole stiletto style of shoe, and the years I’ve put in have given me a real education into the true craft of shoemaking. Because of it, I am truly a part of the manufacturing process. I hand-build the prototype of every shoe we produce to ensure the fi t and comfort is just right.
The latest collection is a lot of fun. Much of the inspiration comes from a trip I took to Santa Fe. I have a friend who organizes a folk art market there with people from all over the world. The trip and the market were hugely inspiring. I saw work from Mali that was made from zebra skin mixed with lizard and other exotics that inspired many of our shoes. I was also inspired by the landscape and colors; the new collection uses many of the reddish and green colors for its palette.
The tougher side of fashion.
Not to focus on the negative, but [the fashion calendar] can be exhausting. The schedule is 24/7. When you’ve finished one collection, you’re already in the middle of the next. I’m about to present my Spring 2015 collection; meanwhile, I was in Italy last week, launching Pre-Fall 2015, so I’m always working. At the same time, it is quite invigorating. I like to be on the go. When I’m in one place for too long, I feel a need to be moving to the next.
We have big visions. In the next five years, we want to be a major global player in the women’s shoe business. In the meantime, we are seriously considering launching a men’s shoe collection. I’ve noticed a real niche in the market, and I see a place for a new voice in that world.
What makes you different.
Up until two years ago, many of the designers were putting out heavy, platform, chunky shoes. I felt the need for women’s shoes to return to a sort of lightness — to put forth a collection that was elegant and chic, but had a joyful quality to it, all the while doing it in a very modern way. Along with this vision is the technical knowledge and experience to put out a shoe with a level of craft that many designers today simply cannot match.