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Best Foot Forward

Q&A
Salvatore Ferragamo's Design Director of Women's Footwear Paul Andrew.

Topping fashion headlines last September, Salvatore Ferragamo appointed cult-favorite shoe designer Paul Andrew as the brand’s first-ever design director of women’s footwear. The dapper Brit has an impressive history, honing his craft at Alexander McQueen, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan before launching his namesake brand of women’s shoes in 2013—which nabbed the 2014 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award and quickly became a red carpet go-to for the likes of Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Emma Watson.

One year into the job at Ferragamo, we checked in with the designer who launched his Pre-Fall and Fall debut for the brand to critical acclaim. “The past year has been an amazing adventure, one with no creative boundaries,” says Andrew. “And certainly not lacking for international travel: in the past six months alone I’ve been in Tokyo, Seoul, Milan, Paris, London, Mexico City, Qatar and Oman.” And of course to Florence at the global headquarters of Ferragamo, where we caught up with the designer.

How did you first get interested in the world of shoe design?
I always admired my father’s work, as upholsterer to the Queen at Windsor Castle, and would say that I grew up in the world of design. From saving pocket money for British Vogue as a child, to exploring the world of high-tech craftsmanship in design technology courses in high school, it was well evident before I entered fashion footwear design studies in university where my passions and natural talents lied.

Tell us about your debut collections for Ferragamo.
My idea has been to reemphasize the story of the Ferragamo brand and highlight the fundamentals that made Salvatore such a profound and groundbreaking presence. My designs reimagine certain brand symbols—the metal gancio, the Flower Heel, the F Wedge and the signature Vara Bow Ballerina—and express these icons to a new generation of independent, strong and discerning women.

And what inspired those first collections?
When Salvatore passed away in 1960, he left behind an incredible archive housing almost 15,000 pairs of shoes. I have focused on reworking certain silhouettes, which have become the inspirational foundation for the collections. I have reimagined them in new colors and added new architectural elements taken from both Florentine artists such as Sandro Botticelli and contemporary artists like Richard Serra.

What have been your goals at the house?
My intention has always been to bring about an evolution, not a revolution for the modern Ferragamo women. To reintroduce this incredible brand to a new and younger generation of consumers while maintaining our loyal and respected clientele. I am doing this with innovations in design, make and material, with the hopes of putting new emphasis and interest on the inherent beauty of the brand. I began with the iconic F Wedge and Flower Heel reimagined as booties, ankle-strap pumps and evening sandals. My aesthetic of streamlining silhouettes and playing with architectural intrigue adds a new narrative for the Fall/Winter collection.

How did you combine the house codes with your own aesthetic?
When you really study Salvatore’s archives, it’s clear that he valued the perfect silhouette. The volume and proportion of all his creations from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s always made the foot look smaller and the leg longer. He was the first to make shoes fashionable—into covetable objects of desire. He also loved to work with colorful and innovative materials. I share these same aesthetic values in my eponymous collection. So with my designs for Ferragamo, I’m consciously bringing back awareness to these design fundamentals and thinking how he would want the shoe to look today.

What did you learn while going through the archives?
I have spent numerous hours over the last several months studying the archival shoes in close detail. In doing so, I feel that I’ve been somewhat able to connect with Salvatore’s passion, his creative genius. As the first named shoe designer for the house, exploring the archives is more than a source of inspiration, but a dialogue with the brand’s namesake founder.

Have you introduced any new materials or techniques?
I wanted to bring iconic elements into the now, the future for Ferragamo—to innovate the innovations. Artisanal craftsmanship is in the Italian blood and by tapping into this passion for artisanship and innovation from other areas of industry, we’re able to open new doors to the world of fashion. By galvanizing the Flower Heel on a knit ankle bootie, a process realized by an expert team of car manufacturers, Ferragamo remembers the past while charging forward.

What’s next for women’s shoes at Ferragamo?
I’m building a long-term narrative for Ferragamo and while you can definitely expect newness season to season, the story I’m crafting brings both consistency and evolution.

 

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