“I’m still on cloud nine,” Paul Andrew admits, smiling as he sits in the plush surroundings of a quiet corner of the Room at Hudson’s Bay, referencing his CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund win. “But I can already see so much has changed with the business. We’re seeing much more brand recognition out there. That night of the win, we got an additional 3,000 Instagram followers in six hours. It was really wild to see, the numbers flashing up like that.”
And yet instant success isn’t a foreign concept to the British-born, New York-based footwear and accessory designer. His inaugural collection in spring 2013 for his eponymous line was met with rave reviews and was immediately snapped up by influential stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and the Room at Hudson’s Bay. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o is just one of Hollywood’s pretty young things to stride down a major red carpet in his shoes after just two years of business. “Now to have the support of the CFDA … it’s mind-boggling to think what is going to happen,” Andrew concedes.
The designer tends to refer to his brand as fledgling, but in truth he’s more of a veteran than a newcomer. He began sketching shoes as a child growing up just outside of Windsor, England. His mother’s “deep closets filled with stilettos” were a first point of fascination that eventually led him to study fashion and footwear design at Berkshire College of Art. Following industry excitement over his graduate collection, Andrew spent 15 years working with such designers as Alexander McQueen, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan before striking out on his own. He credits those experiences as the foundation for his success. “Calvin taught me a lot about staying true to your original idea. Narciso was all about the silhouette, everything was grounded in black with accents of colour. And of course McQueen was all about thinking outside the box and doing something more fabulous season after season. And Donna, being more about the fit and comfort of everything,” Andrew recalls. “All of those bits are sort of instilled in my own brand, yet it looks nothing like any of those brands.” Knee-high boots feature cascading suede fringe, pointed-toe heels include reverse scallop details, equestrian-inspired boots are made with calfskin and snakeskin. The focus on fit and quality is clear, but it’s the whimsy that draws you in.
At the time of his brand’s debut, heavy platforms were au courant, but he had something different in mind. “My idea was to return to the lightness and elegance of the single sole,” he says. It paved the way for its return. Now, with collections spanning from sandals and peep-toe stilettos to over-the-knee boots, Andrew has a comprehensive outlook on what his brand represents. “The shoes are chic and elegant, but have this joyful quality to them.” Each shoe begins with a sketch and then he heads to Italy (he’s there every other week) to be a part of the final design and construction process.
“I’m so fortunate to just be two and a bit years in and have this team,” he says. “One has to be humble. Fashion is [such that] you’re in one minute and out the next, so I’m trying to take it slow.” He pauses and laughs. “Pardon the pun, but one step at a time here.”