By: Amy Vosejpka
2013. Milan, Italy. I have been invited to view Vogue Italia’s newest incubation program for emerging designers called Who Is On Next. The room is lively with every Who’s Who of fashion lightly conversing and gracefully sipping champagne shoulder-to-shoulder. The fashion newbies circling the parameter of the exhibition wait anxiously for their lives to be changed. As I make my way around the room of beautifully crafted designs, I can’t help but be particularly impressed with one young talent - a footwear designer who, with his wispy blonde hair, ocean blue eyes, and a voice so calming it sounds like a floating cloud, has more than apparent talent in his small collection of satin, sequence-encrusted magenta pumps, suede forest green and fuchsia floral open toed heels, and buttery black leather stiletto with a translucent-leopard print hybrid ankle covering. I know in my soul that he is going to be unstoppable.
Fast-forward to present-day, and I find myself stepping off the elevator onto the fifth floor of a warehouse-esq space on NYC’s westside on a bitter February day. As I excitedly wait to reunite with this designer, who has reached international acclaim in a mere 5 years, I look around the room. The same group of fashion’s elite - along with a few new faces and several Instagram stars - are hobnobbing with one another and gasping over the wearable beauty that is the Fall/Winter 2018 collection. Only this time, it is not for a dozen of nervous unknowns. It is all just for Paul.
This interview with Paul Andrew for Making It In Manhattan has been condensed and edited.
Amy Vosejpka: I cannot believe we are here with each other after all these years! Tell me about this amazing 2018 collection.
Paul Andrew: hahaha I know - it has been so long! So for this season, it all began at MoMa with this incredible Robert Motherwell painting that I must have walked passed so many times, but on this particular occasion, it really jumped at me. It was so focused on three colors - red, black, and white - so that really became the collection’s color palette. The shapes within the artwork also inspired the signature print for the season, which you see it printed on shoes throughout the collection. As I started sketching, I went to see a preview of “Call Me By Your Name” by Luca Guadagnino, and I was kinda obsessed with the movie and the 80s soundtrack in it. It made me think back to the 80s, my mom, and the shoes that she was wearing in that time, and that inspired a lot of the silhouettes - these sort of metal cap heels, spiked pumps, a lot granny booties, and kitten heels with slouch boots.
AV: I'm loving it all! Who is your go-to style icon?
PA: There are a few, but someone who I always go back to is Marlene Dietrich. She’s amazing because she could go from super feminine to super masculine. She’s strong - she was one of the first women who really embodied this women’s empowerment - and didn’t care what men thought. She was wearing men's clothes, which was so taboo in the 1920s and 30s. She also loved color, although you can’t really see it in the black and white photos, but the clothes she wore were so bright. And she would go really whimsy with things too, like feathers and rhinestones. I’m always looking back at those movies she was in for inspiration.
AV: What is some advice you have for someone who is trying to break into the fashion industry?
PA: I would say that you really need to be ready. I’m a designer that worked for several other brands for over 15 years before I started my own business. I don’t know that I would’ve been as ready or had the success that I had so fast had I not had that experience. I would really urge any designer to work with other designers to learn the business. Also, you really have to have a point of view. In this day and age, there’s so much choice in product, so unless you have something to say that is so different from from anyone else in the market, the market doesn’t need another shoe designer or another bag designer. You better have a point of view.
AV: What is the Paul Andrew’s point of view?
PA: It’s about being chic, elegant and joyful. You don’t necessarily see it unless you’re in the showroom, but there’s an incredible vibrancy of color. My point of view is also about empowering women. My whole career I’ve been about adding incredible comfort and fit to my shoes, so that a women doesn’t just look good, but she feels good simultaneously. Before I started, no one was talking about comfort in shoes. Everyone was talking about how high you can make the heel and how how high the platform can be. It’s really important to me that everything that I design is extremely wearable and comfortable.
AV: Where do you see the brand going?
PA: I see that this is really just the beginning. Five years isn’t so long, and we’ve really now firmly established a stronghold in retail. We have over 130 stores in distribution around the US, and we launched men’s last year, which was a really big step. I’ve been made Creative Director of everything women’s at [Salvatore] Ferragamo so who knows! I’m really working closely and intensely on RTW (Ready-To-Wear), so it could be something eventually connected to my own brand. I don’t necessarily see it just being shoes, I could see it being other product categories.
AV: Such as branching out from footwear?
PA: Eventually. There’s absolutely no plans for that right now, but I definitely have interest in doing other things. For me, it’s about doing it at a pace that is sustainable and in line with the business.There’s no point in doing everything all at once, because there’s only so much time and attention I can spend on one thing. When I’m ready for the next project and have the time to do it, I will absolutely do it.
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