Marvels of craftsmanship, updated with hight-tech, architectural state of mind - Paul Andrew is making great strides with his debut footwear collection for Ferragamo. Dâm Koh discovers more in Seoul.
My intention has always been to create shoes for women to feel beautiful, confident and strong, and to be able to dance all night long,” says Paul Andrew. True enough, that’s what guests did at a starstudded soirée in Seoul, thrown to mark his debut collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. The British shoe extraordinaire was recently named the Italian House’s Women’s Footwear for Salvatore Ferragamo. “My concept for this collection was to highlight what made Salvatore such a profound and ground-breaking presence in his field—not to reinvent, but to introduce this beautiful Italian heritage brand to a new generation,” Andrew explains. He took inspiration from a vault of 15,000 archival pieces to reimagine a “wardrobe of dressing,” a series of sharply designed groups that cater to the many facets of today’s Ferragamo woman. Sensual, luxurious and sculptural are just a few romantic adjectives that encapsulate what Andrew has reconsidered for 2017: The kid leather and satin Kimo sock-bootie, which Signor Ferragamo created after seeing geishas wearing socks with sandals in Japan in the 1930s; the uber-contemporary sneaker boot; the intricately laser-cut leather sandal; and the “F” wedge, which stands supreme on booties, pumps and thigh-high boots. All of this, engineered with an ultra-durable flower-shaped column heel that’s been galvanised in a car factory; and in-built memory foam for elevated comfort. “Salvatore travelled to the States in 1914 to study anatomy so that he could come back and create the most comfortable and fabulous shoes in the market. I share the same ideals; and now, with each shoe in this collection completely redesigned, the fit, beauty and comfort, for me, should be the best ever,” he affirms.
If someone had told you 10 years ago that you’d be designing for Ferragamo, what would you have said?
I would have been elated and humbled, as I am today. Ferragamo has been an iconic reference for shoe design and craftsmanship for nearly a century. It is a great honour and huge responsibility to be invited to lead the creative vision for the future of its women’s shoe division.
What is your earliest memory of design and craftsmanship? Did this first spark your passion of shoemaking?
Fashion has always been my first interest and my career path became clear quite early in life. My father was the Queen’s upholsterer at Windsor Castle, and being constantly surrounded by luxurious textiles and artisan craftsmanship was an enormous influence.
How would you describe your personal evolution and the design journey that has led you up to this point?
At the start of my career, I was fortunate enough to work with amazing design mentors. Each of them had specific fortes that gradually inspired my own aesthetic: Alexander McQueen with his boundless creativity, Narciso Rodriguez for his clean, sexy aesthetic, and Calvin Klein for his unwavering commitment to minimalistic design. With Donna Karan though, 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. It wasn’t about creating shoes that made her into an object for male consumption; it was about celebrating every aspect of the woman, including her need for comfort. That’s something that has become incredibly important to my collection. I launched my eponymous brand in 2013. Ferragamo had apparently been following my work since then, but really paid attention after the CFDA awards last June. It came down to a mix of values and timing being in sync. We had a few conversations and it felt right on both sides to embark on this adventure.
How would you sum up your design identity in a few words?
In all my designs, be it for Ferragamo or my eponymous brand, three words bring me back to the core of my aesthetic: Chic, elegant and joyful. I find that whenever a shoe doesn’t seem quite right during the design process, it is usually missing one of those components.
What about Ferragamo’s heritage has left the deepest impression on you?
I have always felt that the Ferragamo house is so unique, not only because of its storied past and design heritage, which are 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 still remains very true and close to its roots.
Who is the Ferragamo woman this collection was fashioned for?
My intention has always been to create shoes that make a woman not only look beautiful, confident and strong, but also feel beautiful, confident and strong—the Ferragamo woman demonstrates and values these traits enormously. She demands a balance of thoughtful, comfortable design with the most luxurious materials.
What are some of the key cuts, shapes and curves in this collection?
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. Its curved, feminine-form silhouette was a marvel of architectural engineering at that time. My new version of the heel, thanks to the technology available today, is higher, more under-slung, and has been coated with a galvanised metal finish that was applied in a car factory.
The best shoemakers in the world are men. What makes them so good?
Male or female, designing women’s shoes holds an enormous responsibility to dedicate oneself to craftsmanship and wearability. Salvatore Ferragamo was uncompromising with these qualities—I am simply embracing and building upon his design philosophy. He constantly sought innovation by combining technology and craftsmanship. High-tech meets high-craft has become my overarching design principle to take the brand forward.