Designer Paul Andrew On His New Line, Working With Alexander McQueen, & More



In a move that was met with much anticipation, British-born, US-based footwear and accessory designer Paul Andrew announced his namesake line of luxurious women’s shoes for Spring 2013. Over the past 15 years, Andrew has cultivated his craft within iconic fashion houses such as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen and Narciso Rodriguez. He envisions a style and sensibility for his namesake collection that is at once modern and glamorous; an aesthetic that is always sexy without severity. Here, he speaks to Life+Times about the inspiration behind his latest collection.

Life+Times: You gained a solid reputation quite quickly. What do you attribute to your incredibly fast recognition?
Paul Andrew: I am extremely flattered and humbled at my quick growth and “reputation.” I attribute this success to the 15 years I worked with gifted designers both in London and New York before launching my own eponymous label.

L+T: You began your career as an honors graduate from England’s Berkshire College of Art & Design in 1999. What was your schooling like?
I enjoyed a varied and full fashion education. I studied both footwear and ready-to-wear design, but ultimately shoes were my calling. I won the title of Graduate Footwear Designer of the Year in 1999, which landed me an apprenticeship position at [Alexander] McQueen. It’s at this point that I started spending a lot of time in Italy and truly learned the art of shoe-making.

L+T: You’ve worked all over the place prior to launching your namesake line – Alexander McQueen, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. What did each of these individuals teach you?
As a design apprentice at Alexander McQueen, Lee’s ability to push ideas to a realm you’d never even considered gave me a whole new perspective on design. Narciso’s talent to simultaneously balance sleek lines, mature sophistication, and sex appeal has always stayed with me. I spent several years at Calvin Klein, whose unwavering vision taught me a great deal about staying true to one’s original design. Upon Calvin’s retirement I made the move to the Donna Karan Collection where I spent the better part of a decade working alongside Donna as the design head for collection shoes and accessories. Donna instilled in me the importance of innovative design, impeccable quality, fit and comfort… and I carry those ideals with me.

L+T: What is your approach to design – as your creations are the epitome of feminine and glamour.
I describe my approach to design as modern and innovative, and strive to make women look and feel more beautiful. I also have a rather unrepentant devotion to comfort, which plays a major role in every shoe I design.

L+T: To me what is most interesting is that you hand-render the prototype of every heel you create. What is the benefit of this process? What makes this unique?
I hand-make the first prototype of every heel and last myself, then draw the patterns. This allows me to control the way the shoe looks and feels on the foot. The benefits are quite numerous. I’m able to ensure the shoe is perfectly balanced, and work in added details of comfort, such as a cushioned footbed or sliver of a platform on sandal constructions.

L+T: Clearly your inspiration comes from many sources. What are you inspired by as of late?
I tend to draw inspiration from eclectic sources; classic films, modern art, ethnic culture. But I find that I always return to the inspiration of the women in my life.

L+T: The word “severe” is something that you’ve mentioned you’ve always wanted to steer clear of. Why is that?
When I was launching my first collection, for Spring 2013, the trend for footwear had become decidedly heavy and chunky. My focus has been to turn attention back to the exquisite lightness of the stiletto heel and single sole. I design shoes that don’t need the “severity” of a towering platform to be covetable.

L+T: Growing up, what were some of your first memories of shoes?
My first memory of shoes comes from my mother. She has such a love of fashion and growing up I remember her deep closets filled with shoes. There were many ’80s stilettos in vibrant colors of kidskin, suede, and grosgrain. I specifically remember this pair of red, knee high pull on boots! I adored these boots and studied the details and construction. They actually became the inspiration for a pair of boots in my Fall collection.

L+T: Who is the Paul Andrew woman?
She leads a varied and complex life. As a modern, urban woman, she spends a lot of time on her feet; taking the children to school, running to the gym, meetings at the office, cocktail with friends, dinner with her man. She achieves all of this with confidence, sex appeal, sophistication and comfort.

L+T: Your pre-spring 2014 collection was inspired by a drip to DIA:Beacon – specifically Richard Serra’s works. What is it about Serra that you’re inspired by, specifically for this collection?
I was most inspired by the way his sculptures take the shaping of space rather than material as their primary subject. This affected my design process and the lines of the shoes. The shape of each style takes on a life of it’s own.

L+T: You also had a meeting with filmmaker and photographer Andrew Zuckerman that you were intrigued by. What is it about him and his works that inspired Pre-Spring 2014?
The hyperrealism of Andrew’s work inspires me still. The colors and shapes that he captured in his book FLOWER was something I couldn’t ignore. It really inspired me. He and I collaborated on a “blurred roses” print, which I had laser-printed onto Italian silk and developed several pointed toe stiletto silhouettes, now available at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks and Neiman Marcus.