Pret-a-Reporter

In His Shoes: A Chat With Luxury Footwear Designer Paul Andrew

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Gwyneth Paltrow in Paul Andrew's designs.

When Jessica Chastain is the first to step out in one of your designs, it's clear your shoes are a work of art. Here, the single sole stiletto designer shares which celeb he hopes will wear his shoes next.

Paul Andrew has taken the celebrity shoe world by storm. His elegant creations first came to our attention compliments of Jessica Chastain, who was spotted wearing them during a Cannes photo call. Since then, a bevy of A-list beauties have set foot on the red carpet in his chic footwear.

A lover of the single sole, his designs hearken back to a time of elegant simplicity, while still incorporating elements, textures and design details that propel the line into the modern age. Trained at iconic brands like Donna Karan and Narciso Rodriguez, we can see the designer becoming an icon in his own right.

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What is your favorite thing about designing shoes? 

I most enjoy the development process [and] working with Italian artisans who have been making luxury footwear for generations and who are as passionate about shoemaking as I am. My factories are located near Milan, where I travel from New York every 10 to 15 days to oversee production and hand-make the first prototypes of every last heel and pattern. I do this personally to ensure the fit and quality of the shoes meet my exacting standards. Today, the luxury consumer is really smart, and I feel she is looking for something that is not only beautifully designed, but also thoughtfully made.

How did the "Zenadia" stiletto come about with its beautiful curve?

The Zenadia was introduced for a collection inspired by Andrew Zuckerman’s magnificent book Bird, which features colorful, exotic birds in flight. The wing detail came from the abstract idea of aerial movement, the flick of a wing. But as well as designing the silhouette, comfort was a huge priority for me, and there are numerous details in the construction which make this shoe wearable all day, despite its height. I added industrial memory foam padding inside the insole, an underslung heel that balances the weight of the body, and crafted a specific inclination for the arch, which offers increased support and balance. I wanted to create something memorable and unique among a sea of leather pumps. 

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Who was the first celebrity to wear your shoes and what was it like? 

One of the first celebrities to wear my shoes was Jessica Chastain. Jessica wore a pair of embroidered fuchsia stilettos to the Cannes film festival, then later during a photo shoot on the beach, she took off the shoes and carried them. My name was visible in the insole and the photographs were all over the press. It was a dream-come-true moment for any emerging shoe designer, as it helped my brand visibility enormously on an international scale. I will always be so grateful to Jessica for this. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of other amazingly talented and beautiful women, such as Lupita Nyong'o, Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore wear the shoes.

Why do you like the single sole stiletto so much? 

For me there is nothing more chic, elegant and effortless than the silhouette of a well-made single sole stiletto. It is a look that I’ve always been attracted to, but when I started my line, the market was overly saturated with chunky, heavy platforms. In speaking with my girlfriends, I came to understand that women love a platform for the height they provide, without the vertiginous pitch, so I saw a niche in the market for truly beautiful single sole stilettos that were simultaneously comfortable. I think women had come to associate the single sole with a certain measure of pain, which is legitimate, so I've gone to great lengths to ensure my shoes not only look luxurious and fashionable, but also perform for every lifestyle. 

What are your favorite shoes to wear yourself? 

I wear a lace-up oxford almost everyday. I'm a creature of habit, although I have a few multiple iterations of the same style and in a few different colors. 

What is your favorite pair? 

A pair of black lace-ups I designed during my time as the shoe designer at Calvin Klein Collection in the early 2000s. I still wear them often.

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Shoes you would want to be buried in? 

I’d rather not think about that!

What celebrity would you love to see in your shoes who hasn't worn them yet?  

I love Charlize Theron, she's so elegant and poised, not to mention utterly gorgeous. 

Is it true a men's line is in the works? 

It’s true, I am interested in launching a line of men's shoes. Right now, it’s still in the early development phase; I am looking to find the right manufacturers and tanneries, getting the fit and construction right is just as important in men’s shoes as it is for women's. I want to make sure that, as I have done with my women's line, the fit, craftsmanship and quality meet my exacting standards, and that takes time. If only it were as easy as coming up with the design! 

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