Hubert Burda Media

10 Minutes with Paul Andrew

The rising shoe designer reveals how Hong Kong influenced his SS2016 collection and shares a trick to nab your dream shoe.

At just three-and-a-half-years-old, Paul Andrew’s namesake brand is often perceived the next new thing.  But the US-based British shoemaker is no newcomer — he’s actually a veteran in the footwear industry who has racked up over 15 years of experience honing his craft with some of the biggest names in fashion: The late Alexander McQueen, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan.

In 2013, he won the 11th Annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund, making him the first Briton, the first shoe designer, with the youngest brand, to clinch the coveted US$300,000 prize, as well as the enviable opportunity to be mentored by retail powerhouse Tory Burch. “She’s such an exceptional woman and business leader, and [the mentorship] has had a great effect on my own business,” he says of the entrepreneur, which boasts the US$1 billion brand with more than 150 free-standing boutiques. “She has a sizeable business online, whereas I hadn’t really focused on e-commerce, on on my own website. So I’m putting a major focus on redesigning the site and we’re thinking of launching e-commerce.”

While he has ideas for expanding his label — reputed for single-sole stilettos that’s super chic yet comfortable — into product categories such as eyewear, fragrance, or even ready-to-wear, he has introduced a sleek collection of men’s shoes, encompassing dress shoes and sneakers at the recent New York Fashion Week: Men’s, that toes the line between staid and splashy.

Meanwhile, he keeps his women’s line buzzing with a new Spring/Summer 2016 collection launched in Singapore exclusively at Pedder on Scotts, which he calls a “remarkable retailer. “It has such a curated approach and it makes me so proud that it has chosen to carry my collection. It’s interesting how it is so focused on the shoes and accessories, and have dominated Hong Kong and Southeast Asia for luxury footwear. I couldn’t be happier to be affiliated with them.”

Andrew was in town for only a day, but the early riser (he wakes up at 5:30am every morning to run) headed to Pedder on Scotts at 9:30am to check out the place, before zipping back for a day packed with interviews and an evening back at the multi-label boutique to meet special guests and customers. “The place was everything I wanted. It’s a well-designed, put-together store and the assortment is breathtaking. It embraced so many of the values I hold dear as a brand. It’s chic, it’s elegant, there is an appreciation for colour and there’s a tongue-in-cheek fun to everything.”

Ask him what the greatest mistake ladies make when it comes to shopping for shoes and he says: “I see this all the time: Women buy the wrong size.” His advice? “When you’re trying on shoes, you need to put both pairs on because one foot is often bigger than the other,” he answers. “Then walk around the store. Don’t just walk on the carpet — try a wooden surface or a concrete floor, because that’s when you’re going to feel whether the shoe is comfortable and stays on or not.”

As part of his long-running City Stories theme, where a city is the starting point of every collection, this season centres on Hong Kong. “I was inspired by a previous visit and upon returning to New York, I re-watched Wong Kar Wai’s film In The Mood for Love, where Maggie Cheung has multiple changes. I’ve taken inspiration from the cheongsam dresses she wore, and reworked the prints for the shoes.”

The first shoe Paul Andrew designed for the collection is the Xiamen sandal. “The jacquard is actually based on a vintage cheongsam dress, which I bought in Hong Kong and had it rewoven in Soho. It was originally meant for just this shoe, but I loved it so much it became a key fabric in the collection.”

One of his favourite memories from that trip was immortalised in the collection. “[It was a] dinner at The China Club,” he shares. “The food was so delicious but the interior decoration of the space was so remarkable — it felt like you were back in the past. The wallpaper actually became a major print in the collection.”

The print Paul Andrew referenced from wallpaper at The China Club. “We actually interpreted the pattern to make it exclusive to us — I love how the bright blue pops off of the black background, it feels simultaneously rich, luxurious and playful.”

He is careful about getting too literal with his influences though. “Getting engrossed in a city and all that it has to offer is an interesting way to design a collection, but it can get tacky when it’s too obvious.”

Working while travelling means he has to pack his sketchbooks, pens, pencils and iPhone to take photographs of monuments, fabrics and things, and its charger, which he confesses to always forget. “I always travel with a Cire Trudon candle with the Spiritus Sancti scent. I wear a white T-shirt almost everyday so those are something I won’t leave home without. A lightweight, non-creasing jacket, because it’s really difficult to travel and look good. Oh and running shoes, because I run wherever I am.”

View the photo gallery where Paul Andrew introduced his Spring/Summer 2016 collection to an exclusive group of VIP guests at Singapore’s Pedder on Scotts, the second of three stops for his Asian tour.

Read more about Paul Andrew in Prestige Singapore’s March 2016 issue.