Paul Andrew launched his eponymous shoe collection for Spring 2013, after perfecting his craft at Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez and Alexander McQueen for 15 years. He tells us more about his journey, and his current city, New York.
What inspired you to start the Paul Andrew line?
I was born in England, in a small rural town close to Windsor Castle. My father was the upholsterer to the Queen, so I grew up around artisanal craftsmanship, which very much influences how I work to this day.
Upon graduating, I apprenticed with Alexander McQueen in London; then, sixteen years ago, I moved to New York to help Narciso Rodriguez launch his line of footwear and accessories. After Narciso, I worked with Calvin Klein, and then spent a decade working with the inimitable Donna Karan. They all taught me so much, but Donna really reinforced the notion that style and comfort should not be at odds with one another - something that has become a pillar of my brand. To me, a comfortable shoe is immediately a more elegant shoe, because it allows the woman to carry herself with poise, ease, and grace.
When I launched my eponymous line for Spring 2013, I wanted to create chic, elegant and joyful single sole stilettos, that were simultaneously comfortable. It's not an easy task, but one that I relish!
How did you get into shoe design and what do you love most about what you do?
When I was a child, I assisted my father and would save up the pocket money I'd earned to buy copies of British Vogue. I was transported by the pages of the magazine – so of course fashion design was always in my mind. As I grew up though, I became fascinated by architecture, specifically how the form followed the function – performance and design were equally as important. So in design school I found footwear as the perfect marriage of these two seemingly disparate disciplines: a shoe is a covetable luxury object, but it must simultaneously perform in your everyday life.
My favorite part of my job is working with the artisans in Italy that make my shoes; Most of them have been making shoes for generations so while I have the utmost respect for their craft, I like to push them to realize my designs in new, innovative ways that give my customer a more beautiful, more comfortable shoe.
What kind of traveller are you?
As a designer I like to explore the places I visit and seek out inspiration from them. I choose a new city every season as the Don't get me wrong, I also like to relax with a glass of wine on the beach, but I always come home with a trove of amazing textiles, pottery, sculpture, or artwork.
What are some of your must-dos when you travel?
I travel constantly. I'm in Milan every ten to fifteen days to visit my factories and follow sampling and production, but I also travel the globe visiting the stores that carry Paul Andrew shoes, everywhere from Texas to Beijing. Before I depart, I ensure that I've downloaded episodes of my favourite shows onto my iPad (right now I'm watching Downton Abbey, Homeland and Wolf Hall), and I make sure to hydrate so that when I land, I'm able to launch right into whatever I have planned for that day.
What's your favourite destination to date?
Every summer I visit Patmos in Greece. The landscape is dry and arid, but the contrast between the rocky shores and the crystal blue water is breathtaking.
Pictured above: Patmos (credit: Hans Huisman)
Could you recommend some places to eat, party and shop here?
The joy of Patmos is that it's so secluded and difficult to get to – an eight hour overnight ferry from Athens and no airport – so there isn't anywhere notable to shop or party! The best places to eat are the rustic, local tavernas on the beach at Lambi and Petra.
What are your 5 travel essentials?
- Pack light, hand luggage only.
- I run every morning, no matter where I am. It is also a great way to see a new city, so I always pack running shoes.
- La Prairie face and eye cream with spf.
- White t-shirts, which I wear every day, and
- a navy blue or printed crease-free jacket from Theory or Paul Smith that can effortlessly dress up the t-shirt for business meetings and dinner.
If there was one celebrity vacation home you would like to live in for a week, whose would it be, and why?
Donna Karan's beach house on Parrot Cay. I worked with Donna for fifteen years, before starting my own brand, and visited her there for design meetings on multiple occasions. It’s a dream house on an island that can only be described as paradise!
Pictured above: Donna Karan's beach house on Parrot Cay (credit: Business Insider)
What are some of your favourite stores in New York?
For home objects and gifts De Verra in SoHo is a jewel box of a store. It’s easy to lose several hours there pursuing the cabinets; everything from architectural remnants, antique jewelry to contemporary Venetian glass. But the wonderful thing about living in New York is that one is spoiled for choice by a great array of fantastic fashion stores, each offering a varying assortment and point of view. My shoes are carried at Bergdorf Goodman, Barney's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Jeffrey, Dover Street Market, Kirna Zabete and Five Story in Manhattan, so I am partial to them for women's shopping!
Pictured above: De Verra (credit: shopikon)
What in your opinion are the best-dressed neighbourhoods in New York?
Every neighbourhood in New York has its own style that's unique and studied, and I have an appreciation for them all; the grand dames of the Upper East Side bedecked in jewels & fur, the unstudied youth culture in the East Village and Williamsburg, the downtown cool that’s SoHo and West Village. Everyone can feel at home in New York.
Describe a perfect weekend in New York City.
Saturday morning begins with a long run along the Hudson River, followed by an early brunch at Locanda Verde. Then I head off to my studio for a few hours to work on designs for the next season; I really like being in the office on the weekend when no one else is around as it's the only time I can really concentrate. Saturday afternoon includes a visit to MoMA or the Neue Gallery, then dinner with my partner, Siddhartha, and friends at Giorgione. Sunday is all about relaxing; I workout with my trainer in the morning, then enjoy a leisurely lunch at Sant Ambroeus in SoHo. Then it’s home to read the weekend newspapers; I particularly enjoy reading WSJ Off Duty and How To Spend It magazine that comes along with the Financial Times. Sunday evening ends with a massage and a delicious home-cooked meal.
Pictured above: Sant Ambroeus (credit: Robert Mckinley Creative Services)
We understand that your latest collection was inspired by New York. What about the city inspired you?
Everywhere you look there is something inspiring in New York! Specific influences came from the Chrysler Building, a marvel of Art Deco architecture which I interpreted as a galvanized stiletto heel, the city lights which became sequins, patchwork fur booties, and intensely saturated colors.
Where in NY do you live?
I live downtown, in TriBeCa. I love it because it feels quite removed from the rest of the city. It's quite quiet and somehow intimate. There are still local artisan coffee shops, antique stores and independently-owned boutiques. All of that set against cobblestone streets and wonderfully preserved architecture, it's a very special place.
In your neighbourhood, can you share with us where you...
... go to eat
At Locanda Verde.
... go for a good breakfast
... hang out
... go for a drink/party
Weather Up on Duane Street.
The J. Crew men’s shop, The Liquor Store, on West Broadway.
... is there anything to see/do in your area?
The neighbourhood is best seen on foot, walking on the old cobblestone streets beside cast-iron buildings, which speak to the area’s industrial past. Many of the former warehouses have been transformed into small family owned restaurants, galleries and performance spaces, and in the evenings the streets thrum with people looking to hear music, out for a drink or a casual dinner.
Pictured above: Locanda Verde (credit: NoHo Hospitality)
What are some of your other favourite neighbourhoods in New York and where do you eat, drink and hang out in those neighbourhoods?
I Sodi for the most delicious and authentic Italian food outside of Italy.
amazing antique glass at The End Of History.
Jane Ballroom The Jane Hotel
...hang out at
the riverside park at Pier 45.
the best sushi in NYC at Bond Street.
Temple Bar. I love that they serve bowls of popcorn with your cocktail!
Santa Maria Novella on Lafayette Street; I only wear their fragrances.
Bowery Electric is a cool rock bar that never disappoints with it’s indie, new wave and folk music acts.
...catch a live comedy or music performance at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre.
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