above: The man himself,Paul Andrew. – Photographs: courtesy of store
As Westport evolves, the demand for high fashion has too, and everyone loves to discover what is new and next. Meet Paul Andrew. The designer came up through the ranks at notable fashion houses quickly, and his understanding of what women want right now is part of his DNA. From his days as a creative director at Salvatore Ferragamo to his tenure at Calvin Klein, he delivered. But now, standing on his own, he’s having a little bit more fun, with color and shape — and isn’t that really what women want today? The fun factor…
Q&A with Paul Andrew
Q: I must confess something personal: when we recently saw each other at Mitchells, I was wearing your shoes from a previous collection, without knowing you would be there for “The Best of Italy” event, where they announced that your namesake line was premiering at the store. When you design do you have longevity in mind?
A: It was great to see you at Mitchells and I was so happy that you were wearing my shoes! What a coincidence. That sandal was from from my summer 2015 collection, and they still looked so great on you. The idea of timelessness, equilibrium in design, Italian-made quality and great comfort has always been an important part of my design philosophy.
Q: Your designs from your brand and as creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo are known for craftsmanship and ingenuity. Have you always been attracted to the fine materials from Italy?
A: I’ve been traveling to Italy for over twenty years, first as a designer for McQueen, then Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez, Donna Karan and then for my own brand. I lived in Florence for five years during my time with Ferragamo and was surrounded by the world’s premier footwear and leather-goods makers. I have thus developed a deep passion and appreciation for Italian craft. I think this is also informed by my childhood in England. My father was the upholsterer to the Queen at Windsor Castle. I would watch with awe as he reupholstered the finest antique furniture by hand. My mother was an executive at a computer company, so I also had an appreciation and understanding of technology and innovation. Both influences inform my work and design mentality today. Also, the Italian factories I work with are focused on developing product that combines high tech with high craft.
Q: You launched your namesake line in 2012 and then went on a brief hiatus while at Salvatore Ferragamo. What drew you to relaunch your own collection?
A: When I was offered the big job at Ferragamo they asked me to pause my brand in order to focus on reinvigorating their company. It was a hard decision to make, as Paul Andrew was extremely successful, selling tens of thousands of pairs every season. Throughout the five- year hiatus I received hundreds of DM’s on social media from clients who missed the brand. I missed it, too! With the relaunch, I wanted to put forward something quite different than what I was doing in the past.
Q: What has inspired the current sleek and modern collection?
A: The new Paul Andrew collections are much more fashion-forward than before. There is a big focus on sustainability, innovation in material, use of color and always a focus on great fit and comfort. I have ensured this not only by offering a great balance of heel heights with focus on fashion shoes with lower heels, but I also did a lot of research and development with the constriction to ensure my insoles fit the inclinations of your instep and that every sole is filled with padding, so it feels like you are walking on a cushion when you wear my shoes.
Q: On that note, do you draw from your diverse days at Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan? Three iconic but very different brands.
A: My experience with these icons taught me so much. When I worked with Lee (McQueen), it was the early 2000s and he was at the height of his success. He taught me the importance of pushing design boundaries, thinking outside the box and being totally original. Then, at Calvin, he taught me the importance of staying true to your original design philosophy, staying on calendar and an appreciation for clean lines and minimalism. With Donna, she taught me the importance of the woman and their needs and desires from luxury fashion, especially the importance of perfect fit and comfort. These experiences were invaluable as I embarked on my own journey and then took such an important role with Ferragamo.
Q: You were the youngest brand and first footwear designer to win the CFDA/Vogue fashion fund and named a BoF 500, the people shaping the global fashion industry, do these honors still drive you today?
A: Winning the CFDA/Vogue fashion fund catapulted my brand and my name into another stratosphere. We more than doubled in sales, received calls from executives at LVMH and Kering, and became a red-carpet staple for celebrities, thanks to the support of Anna Wintour and her team at Vogue, the CFDA, BOF and several other global fashion publications. I do think these honors are very important for the success of a designer, but they do not drive me so much anymore for my own brand. I am much more interested in paying it forward to a new generation of design talents. I currently collaborate with the University Instituto Marangoni Firenze in Italy and have committed a lot of my time with a scholarship and mentorship program for their students. I also mentor young emerging designers in New York and Europe, and this makes me very happy.
Q: From past honors and accolades to future projects, tell us about your new website.
A: When I relaunched my brand, I wanted a new website to accompany and enforce the new design direction I had taken. we are currently in the process of developing our own e-commerce, which we hope to launch in the coming year.
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