Paul Andrew: Putting his best foot forward
The British designer is launching his first men’s shoe collection, available now in the Middle East.Robert Chilton October 30, 2016
The award-winning Brit Paul Andrew burst onto the scene in 2013 with his women’s shoe collection.
As many male designers have done before him, he follows his women’s range this month with his inaugural range for men, which has been handmade in Italy.
EDGAR caught up with Paul to find out more about his personal shoe collection and how he’s found designing his first shoes for men.
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Let's just say that designing shoes means that you end up with a fair amount in your own closet.
Do you wear shoes from your own range?
I've been wearing styles from my new men's collection almost non-stop in recent months. Part of why I launched the collection was because, as a guy, I simply couldn't find shoes that looked modern but were crafted with time-honoured, meticulous techniques. I tend to gravitate towards a dress shoe, so I have been wearing several lace-up Oxford styles that encapsulate that mix of modernity and tradition.
What shoes should a man have in his wardrobe?
I think that recently the paradigm has shifted quite dramatically. Style is so personal, and so fluid these days that I don't think there is a formula for what every man should own. We see men on the red carpet wearing sneakers and guys in jeans and dress shoes on the weekend.
Although at a base level, I think every man should have a great pair of lace-up dress shoes, an interesting sneaker, a great boot, and a pair for evenings.
What is the one pair of shoes that you wear most often?
The Demir lace-up is on heavy rotation. I enjoy wearing sneakers, but personally really like how a polished dress shoe with a modern twist pulls together any outfit.
What do you like about the Demir?
It typifies the story I'm trying to tell with the men's collection – it is both traditional and modern. It feels appropriate in a professional man's wardrobe, but doesn't feel stuffy or staid. It is the perfect mix of classic style with a modern silhouette and detailing.
Which is harder: designing a women's high heel or a men's brogue?
They each have their obvious challenges, though I think that the level of craftsmanship and hand-detailing that goes into a men's brogue is quite intensive and making it feel modern is quite challenging. Men's shoes have such a rarefied history, because they've been made in much the same way for centuries so updating those traditional elements is the trick.
Do you think the trend for luxury sneakers will fade soon?
I personally don't wear sneakers often, but I see men every day wearing sneakers; pairing them with suits, even tuxedos. I think that the issue now is that men are accustomed to a certain degree of comfort. Getting them back into dress shoes is going to be difficult. Truthfully, I don't think that sneakers will ever fade away completely – they're a part of the modern man's wardrobe.
What lessons did you learn while working at Alexander McQueen?
I was working with him in the early days when the atelier was only a handful of people, so I felt a part of the entire process. His creativity was seemingly boundless and he pushed the designers around him to go beyond what was expected and into the realm of fantasy, into the surreal. That constant striving is a lesson I carry with me every day.
Did you have a eureka moment in your career when you thought: ‘Shoes, that's my career path'?
I did. I went to design school in England and took a course in footwear design and it felt like a few seemingly different interests of mine were converging in a compelling way. I'd always been fascinated by architecture and engineering. Being able to apply those very grounded and practical sensibilities to fashion made complete sense for me – I was instantly hooked.
Paul Andrew’s debut men’s footwear collection launches exclusively at Level Shoes in the Middle East.