During this past New York Fashion Week, we had the opportunity to see the latest shoes from designer Paul Andrew. What we found was not only beautifully crafted and high quality, but also invoked an element of technical innovation that really set the collection apart. Inspired by the Greek Islands and the goddesses of ancient times, the line flourishes in balancing glamour with function. While Andrew has only been designing for his own line since 2013, his tenure in the industry shines through, with top-notch execution to boot.
Of the standout pieces, Andrew’s “ATHENA” gladiator sandals are alluring, classy knee-high stilettos. The shoe itself was laser-cut from a single piece of calfskin at Andrew’s manufacturing facility in Italy. His signature design, the “RHEA” sling-back, dazzles with a vibrant new vision, as layer upon layer of triple-dyed suede is stacked and sliced to produce unique pieces of a colorful, kaleidoscopic nature. From custom-made materials to one-of-a-kind finishes, each piece is luxuriant. And yet, Andrew incorporates padded insoles and tubular padded straps for real-life wearability.
I don’t sketch a shoe with the initial thought of whether the physical construction is possible, I design what inspires me and what feels right for the season.
For a bit of background: the British-born, US-based Andrew worked in the luxury accessories industry for over 15 years prior to launching his own line, with time spent at many renowned fashion houses including Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen and Narciso Rodriguez. He learned that while linked, design innovation often spurs changes in technical production rather than the other way around. “I don’t sketch a shoe with the initial thought of whether the physical construction is possible,” he shares with CH. “I design what inspires me and what feels right for the season—then comes the challenge to develop the technical procedure to realise the idea. At the chagrin of my Italian manufacturers, I am continuously challenging the standards of shoe-making to ensure my shoes fit and feel more comfortable than those from other designers.”
Delving further into inspiration, Andrew cites “eclectic sources; classic film, music, museum exhibitions, trips I’ve taken.” With that initial seed, he commences with his rigorous personal process. “I create a color and inspiration wall in my office, where I pin up tear-sheets and leather and fabric swatches. This sets the tone for the season and whenever I feel I’m moving off course, I always turn back to the wall for guidance and assurance. I sketch hundreds of shoes each season to narrow down to 40 styles. I edit and re-sketch continuously as I determine what will best represent the inspiration and simultaneously satisfy my clients’ wants and desires.” From there, the designer travels back and forth between the US, Milan and greater Italy every two weeks for prototyping and ultimately the production run. What begins as an inspired lightbulb—after much honing and crafting—becomes a beautiful collection of shoes that keep comfort and functionality in mind.
Images courtesy of Steven Sebring for Paul Andrew