Salvatore Ferragamo’s new Creative Director talks to Eugenie Kelly about designing from the feet up, living next door to the royals and his take-no-prisoners approach to luxury.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

If Salvatore Ferragamo Creative Director Paul Andrew happened to be meandering down Tokyo’s Omotesando, a boulevard lined with Zelkova trees and towering luxury flagships, as I am right this minute, I’m guessing he’d find the scene a tad depressing. 

The streetwear-ification of luxury has hit this postcard precinct hard, with shop windows filled with chunky dad sneakers, logo-emblazoned hoodies, technical outerwear and oversized everything. Andrew has vented his frustration in past interviews that this isn’t what luxury fashion should be about, and he reiterates that view when we meet a few hours later in an art gallery around the corner to discuss the brand’s fall/winter 2019 collection. “You could say I’m doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing right now. Yes, clothes have to have ease and wearability, but they still need to be elevated,” he says. This makes him sound like the uptight type, but he’s the exact opposite: A clean-cut version of Daniel Craig who jokes constantly (“Come see this silk suit I’m dubbing the ultimate hangover outfit!”), but takes his role of brand guardian incredibly seriously.

The Brit joined Salvatore Ferragamo in September 2016 as design director of women’s footwear, moved up a rung to women’s director a year later and now sits poised at the top of the top of the creative ladder, also overseeing menswear since February (Guillaume Meilland stays on as men’s design director). On the surface it appears a speedy climb, but an apprenticeship in the footwear atelier at Alexander McQueen, followed by stints at Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Narciso Rodriguez working on accessories instilled in him an appreciation for craftsmanship and commercial nous—a winning formula in today’s fickle market.

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From left: A midi patchwork leather skirt that’s inspired by a pair of multicoloured patchwork wedge from 1942. Leather also features in the brand’s sunglasses collection. Bag, $4,450, Salvatore Ferragamo. The new Boxyz bag’s classic structured form was made to appeal to a trans-generational audience 

Revitalising a heritage house such as Salvatore Ferragamo, which was established in 1927, has brought a unique set of challenges. “Salvatore was all about innovation and technology, but after he passed away, the focus was growing the business,” Andrew says. “It became incredibly classical. The market aged, so I had to rethink how to take those elements—the incredible codes, an immense archive—and remake them to feel cool to a younger generation. The fashion had to work on a 17-year-old, a 70-year-old and everyone in between.” 

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A pinstripe jumpsuit updated with a toggle drawstring waist. 

Andrew’s background as a shoe designer means he takes a different approach to designing clothes. “The shoe dictates the proportion of the garment,” he explains. “I think about the design from toe to head.” At the start of each season, Andrew makes a pilgrimage to the Ferragamo archives in the centre of Florence, Italy. There are 15,000 pairs of shoes to rifle through—a photograph doesn’t do it for him as it doesn’t reveal, say, the way a sole is applied or the texture of embroidery. The shoe casts of famous actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age are stored here: Ferragamo left his village of Bonito in Italy for the US at 16, setting up shop on Hollywood Boulevard. “To hold the foot of Marlene Dietrich or the Duchess of Devonshire is pretty surreal,” Andrew says. 

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Bag, $1,290; boot, Salvatore Ferragamo. 

Another deep-dive into the archives revealed a bag that the designer has reworked to become the Boxyz— a style he bet would appeal to a cross-generational market. “It has only been on sale for three weeks, but already our numbers are telling us it has wide appeal,” he says. Other standout pieces: patchwork boots constructed from laser-cut pieces of leather painstakingly glued, a slip-style dress made from nappa leather that becomes an A-line dress when the belt is untied, and skirts made from panels of leather and suede in dazzling colours. There’s a distinct ’80s vibe going on, an era Andrew explains is synonymous with the brand as that was the decade in which it saw massive growth. “I’m also an ’80s child,” he says. 

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Creative Director, Paul Andrew. 

“My mother was an executive at a computer company and dressed up every day. My father was the upholsterer to the Queen. I was raised in an environment where there was a huge focus on technology on one side and artisanship on the other. At the time, I didn’t realise the effect it had on me. It aligns with Ferragamo’s values: Hi-tech meets high craft.” 

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The collection’s autumnal colour palette is kept fresh with injections of bright colours 

A final fall/winter 2019 honorable mention: A leather jumpsuit inspired by American workwear from the ’40s and ’50s. Cinch the waist so it’s fitted, or leave it loose and oversized. “I wanted women to be able to shape the garment to how they wanted it to look,” Andrew says. “I’m interested in producing pieces that aren’t trend-driven or that will only last one season. Treat it well and it will last generations. That’s what luxury should be.” As for that logo-emblazoned hoodie? Not so much. ■