Luxury shoe designer Paul Andrew stages a comeback
Paul Andrew has revived his eponymous shoe brand. According to the former Ferragamo creative director, the timing is perfect for stand-out designer-level shoes.
"People are selling shoes right now like you can't imagine," Andrew explained from his high-rise apartment-slash-showroom near Wall Street, where he previewed the collection to New York-based press.
"People working from home in front of Zoom all day have even more reason to get dressed up and go to a cocktail party or dinner. The bold colors sold better than the basic styles; everyone wants the fantasy. There is a niche in the market for this kind of product," he added.
The demand is such, said Andrew, that retailers had reached out to him to ask if he would come back with his own line post-Ferragamo. Thus far, the response has been highly positive, with retailers noting the shoes aren't like any other currently in the market.
"I offer shapes other brands don't have, especially the heels. No one else is doing these," he remarked. He is referring to a rounded heel with an inversion near the top called the Brancusi, a favorite design reference, and an L-shaped heel in wood or Lucite that plays upon the idea of a wedge.
According to industry sources, the percentage of clothes sold in luxury collections has dropped from about 7-8 percent of sales to about 3 percent. Accessories still reign, and it's harder to sell shoes than bags in the age of designer resale.
"The secondhand market is huge in handbags, but people still buy luxury shoes because they don't want to wear someone else's shoes."
Clients who loved Paul Andrew shoes the first time around will probably find styles they love, but this collection will also attract a new audience, ostensibly one that is younger and edgier.
"The collection is more forward than before; it's more focused on creativity. Styles I didn't think would sell, did."
He is speaking about a pink sandal with crystal straps and matching shearling insole (currently the best-selling style), a neon green upcycled and injected foam rubber tread-sole wedge, or a bright green yellow and white wool boucle booty on a clear Lucite L-shaped wedge heel.
The upholstery grade fabric he notes is flame-retardant, a European standard. It's a fun fact he can recite as he is the son of the official upholsterer to Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle.
"I was once banned for a year because I bumped into Prince Charles on the stairs. My mother was an executive at Commodore computers and would bring home these mad gadgets for my brother and me to fiddle with," he explained, noting the penchant for the classics mixed with innovation.
Andrew himself has become a bit more forward versus formal in his new role, sporting wide-leg jeans, thick lug sole boots, and forgoing a suit jacket in favor of an open button shirt over a t-shirt and decorated with a black iridescent baroque pearl necklace by Presley Oldham, designer Todd Oldham's nephew.
Once Andrew's non-compete clause expired last October, he began to work on this collection, first shown to buyers starting in February. He also reports being in conversations to be a creative director again for a luxury brand.
"Having paused Paul Andrew and lost an eponymous brand with my own handwriting, I really missed that. Whatever I do next, I want to make sure I keep that going."
The new Paul Andrew will have several signatures, a Plexiglas' ice cube' piece of décor, an A-shaped buckle, and the Brancusi-inspired heel that comes in several heel heights and widths. Prices range roughly from $595 to $795. Some styles, such as a set of mules bedecked in turquoise or coral molded studs, or a crystalized heel that was galvanized in an Italian car factory, are more. Thus far, stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Webster, Moda Operandi, The Room at Hudson Bay and La Rinascente have placed orders.
The landscape has changed a bit since Andrew paused the label. There is a focus on sustainability, though the designer admits it's a challenge with shoes.
"Even a basic shoe has 85 components,' he said, noting he is working with the factories as before but has developed new relationships for the component makers (think buckles, insole makers, recycled sustainable plastic heel lasts, and sustainable tanneries after working with Ferragamo).
He experimented with mushroom leathers early on, but as fascinated as he was with it, it's not quite ready for footwear.
"I tested mushroom leather, but they aren't durable enough for shoes yet. The leather gets pulled across the last and splits," Andrew added. "If you put a product out there that isn't durable and disintegrates, you have to toss it, so it becomes not sustainable."
The environmental changes are also affecting Andrew's offerings. While called Fall 2022, these shoes will hit stores in July and August and are warm weather centric.
"I don't believe in the seasons. The delivery cadence is off in terms of the real season. Then retailers want to mark down in December, which doesn't work for me."
For the moment, Andrew is focused on wholesale despite the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model exploding since he was last in business for himself. The proposition is a heavier task; people buy in multiples to secure fit, so returns are high, and the product's weight makes shipping more expensive than garments. He notes fellow designer and friend Amina Muaddi doesn't sell DTC despite achieving success. While the retail landscape has changed too; for instance, Barneys was a former account, but is no longer.
He is content with the reaction so far.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," he said. The designer shoe landscape has changed since Andrew was last in business. Several of his peers have since closed their businesses such as Charlotte Olympia and Tabitha Simmons. Andrew's shoes will now most likely sit amongst current power names such as Mach & Mach, Aquazzura, Bottega Veneta, Christian Louboutin, and Amina Muaddi.
The editorial game has also changed, but Andrew has a secret weapon in his marketing pocket, some valuable skills learned at his former employment.
"Ferragamo was born in Hollywood, but they hadn't engaged with that relationship. I got that going by hosting events in LA and inviting Netflix and HBO stars to the show. I became friends with them," he recalls citing plans to do gifting programs with celebrities. "They have millions of followers," he added.
The experience also gave Andrew a broader perspective of the experience where he started as lead creative on footwear and ended up overseeing all categories in design and marketing creative direction.
"I used to just focus on the shoe. I didn't think about what she would wear with them. I feel for what that is now," he said, reflecting. "I am calling this chapter the new eroticism. She wants to show her body but not in a tacky way. It's sophisticated."
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