Pierre Hardy Reminisces About the Incredible Shoes That Defined His Career

On Dec. 4, Pierre Hardy will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the FN Achievement Awards (watch the livestream here). Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 3 print issue about the designer’s most distinctive creations.

“For me, drawing is like talking,” said Pierre Hardy. “It’s the easiest way for me to express myself.”

The designer was sitting in his Paris office — just down the street from the city’s Saint Sulpice church — and sketching the first-ever shoe he created for his eponymous label when it launched nearly two decades ago. Hardy drew the simple pump, with its heel shaped like a razor blade, upside down from across his desk.

It was this exceptional talent for sketching that propelled Hardy into the footwear industry and launched his 30-year career as one of the world’s most critically acclaimed designers. He had been working as an illustrator at the Christian Dior trend office in 1987 when he was tapped to design the house’s shoes.

After establishing himself in that position, Hardy moved to Hermès in 1990 to design the women’s footwear collection. He added men’s shoes to his repertoire in 1997 and took the creative reins of the French house’s jewelry in 2001. (Hardy retains all three roles today).

Even as his responsibilities at Hermès were growing, the designer’s boundless creativity fueled his decision to create a namesake label in 1999. “Working with different brands, I still had ideas left that I couldn’t use, as they didn’t match or were just too much for one collection,” he recalled. “So I thought, ‘Let’s create a space for that.’”

The first Pierre Hardy collection featured three colors — black, white and red — and one razor-shaped heel silhouette in three heights. “I wanted something as strong and sharp as a stiletto from the ’60s,” he said, “but in a new, modern way that could offer a different feeling from the profile and from the back.”

Pierre Hardy, 1999.
Pierre Hardy, 1999.
CREDIT: Pierre Hardy

While he was crafting the vision for his label, Hardy added another legendary name to his portfolio. In 2001, he began working with Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, a partnership that would span 11 memorable years. An interiors-inspired piece with a wooden upper and geometric-tiled heel from Balenciaga’s fall ’10 collection sits on the windowsill of his office. “I have one foot,” he said. “Nicolas has the other.”

Always ahead of the curve, Hardy designed Hermès’ first fashion sneaker, the Quick, for spring ’98. “When you look at the success of the sneaker in the fashion world today, Pierre stands out as a visionary,” said Hermès CEO Axel Dumas, who described Hardy’s collections for the house as a mix of playfulness and mathematical simplicity.

“He offers something of the scientist and the sculptor simultaneously, combined with a highly contemporary eye and profound boldness,” said Dumas. “[He has the] utilitarian approach to the object and the strong sense of style, which are part of Hermès’ DNA. He reinvents himself constantly, always looking forward.”

Jennifer Cuvillier, fashion director at Le Bon Marché, lauded Hardy’s ability to infuse his unique aesthetic into every design. “His touch is so specific that you
can recognize a Pierre Hardy shoe right away,” she said. “He is super-creative, but it’s always with his DNA.”

What feeds his passion for innovation? “It’s the desire for newness. Fashion is made to change or evolve,” Hardy said. “I try to reflect what is happening around me, but what I love comes to the top.”

Click through to view Pierre Hardy’s most memorable shoe designs.

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