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The Right Footing

A leader in the fashion industry, Paul Andrew got his start working alongside Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez and Alexander McQueen, where he honed his craft and cultivated his own aesthetic. Since his early days, he has stood out for his daring and pragmatic work, balancing luxury with sustainability and environmental consciousness, and innovating with the latest material and technological advancements.

In 2012, Andrew launched his namesake women’s shoe collections and until recently lead as the Creative Director of Salvatore Ferragamo. So what’s next? In partnership with Istituto Marangoni Firenze, Andrew has announced he is excited to pass on the wisdom from years of experience on to the next generation of creatives with an upcoming masterclass series.

The mentorship program will include two classes focusing on footwear design and how to create a successful, lucrative independent shoe brand as well as the importance of building a strong footwear business within a global multi-billion-euro fashion house today. Andrew began his relationship with Istituto Marangoni Firenze in June when he served as a guest judge for the 2021 international scholarships.

“I was so impressed by the School, its focus, its educational program, and its team that I was keen to get involved even more,” said Andrew. “My mentorship program will its sort of evolved from those conversations.”

Notably, Istituto Marangoni was founded in 1935 in Milan and has been a top educational choice for creatives in fashion, art and design for over 85 years, having served as the foundation for over 45,000 luxury professionals including Domenico Dolce, Alessandro Sartori, Paula Cademartori, Gilda Ambrosio, Julie de Libran and Nicola Brognano. Firenze is the perfect place for Istituto Marangoni to teach fashion and accessories design in their most refined manifestations, educating the professionals of tomorrow to understand the past and transform
the future.

In addition to that, Istituto Marangoni Firenze partners with Paul Andrew and presents “The right footing: where aspirational style and refinement have equal power to form and function” contest, which offers the opportunity to win scholarships consisting in a deduction amounting to 50 percent of the tuition fee for the Master in Luxury Accessories Design & Management, starting in February 2022.

For this reason, Paul Andrew chose the prestigious Istituto Marangoni school in Firenze to present the new IM Mentors Project dedicated to three-year, intensive and master’s courses in the Fashion Design & Accessories area.

In anticipation, Andrew sat down with Alex Badia, Style Director at WWD, to discuss his views on design and fashion as evidence and provocation, inspiring a future that is waiting to be created and how Andrew has developed his career both in design and as an entrepreneur.

The virtual conversation between two old friends started from the very beginning, as Andrew explained that he had been given examples of successful business and creative professionals early on in his life by watching his parents.

“My background is quite interesting because I grew up in this really interesting household where my mother was an executive at a computer company,” said Andrew. “I was constantly engaged with technology, innovation and pushing things forward. My father, on the other hand, was the upholsterer to the Queen Windsor Castle, so I had this sort of artisanship and textiles, leather tradition, and appreciation for the handmade. It really pushed me to sort of engage in a creative part. They engaged both craftsmanship and technological innovation.”

The worlds his parents shared with him, he said, inspired him as a child. In fact, it was through his mother’s wardrobe and weekend trips she would take with him to Harvey Nichols and Harrods, where Andrew discovered fashion, eventually leading him to study fashion design.

“In school I was truly nurtured by a footwear design professor who has asked me years ago to never reveal who he is, but he’s a very famous shoe designer,” said Andrew. “He’s an amazing person and he really pushed me to follow my footwear design skills and to focus on shoes. When it came to my final year of coursing, I chose to put my collection forward for Graduate Fashion Week and I won. That got the attention of several magazines.”

Among those magazine features was a full page in American Vogue, where Badia pointed out is where many in the fashion industry first saw Andrew’s work and landed him his first job out of school with Alexander McQueen.

“That was extraordinary,” said Andrew of his time working with McQueen. “He was pushing boundaries in a way like no other designer at the time and I learned so much from him about thinking outside of the box and really doing things that no one had ever done before. But that Job was totally unpaid and at a certain point my dad told me that I had to get a job that actually paid money.”

Andrew’s next move was to Narciso Rodriguez where he worked on the launch of the designer’s shoe business in the year 2000, before moving to Calvin Klein and then Donna Karen where he spent nearly a decade moving from shoe designer to head of accessories. In 2012, Andrew made the leap to launching his own brand, called Paul Andrew which won the CFDA award.

“That is really what caught the attention of Ferragamo and you know, the rest is history right? That’s when I became the designer, first for footwear, but then slowly the creative director of all categories,” said Andrew.

Having worked for top designers and leading his own namesake brand, Andrew shared that there is a difference in how he approaches the roles – something he plans to go into with detail in his masterclasses for Istituto Marangoni Firenze next year.

“In the role of the creative director of an important established house, your role carries a responsibility to move that legacy and forward and to enhance and move forward the heritage and history of that brand,” said Andrew. “The great thing is that you have huge opportunity and resource because of the scale of that business and you get to do major things like working with famous film directors, putting on multimillion euro fashion shows. You’re creating ad campaigns with supermodels you are taking over major communication channels.”

However, on the other side, he said, “being the founder of your own fledgling company, you have the thrill and enormous joy of freedom and you’re your own boss, but then you have to be creative and resourceful from limited resources. You always have to do a lot with a little and I’ve learned so much from both experiences.”

Throughout all of his roles, both with other design houses as well as his own businesses, Andrew has been proficient at keeping fashion moving forward, exploring new innovations and prioritizing sustainable practices.

“One of the most exciting aspects of fashion, for me at least, is the fact that it’s an industry that is constantly changing and evolving,” said Andrew. “Literally every six months as a designer, you need to put forward something new and fresh that excites the customer to come back to you and buy it. When I think of my upbringing, this mentality is so linked to my mother’s influence. The key is in keeping true to your original design vision to create a product that fits and is qualitative and this also relates to my father’s influence. It’s this appreciation for craft and tradition and handmade and the key to the success in fashion today, I think is related to this fine balance of evolution.”

Moreover, thinking about sustainability and environmental consciousness, Andrew said it’s now a major crucial consideration for our industry, which is also completely linked to the idea of engaging with craft and technology combined. If I were to ever come back to do Paul Andrew shoes, it would definitely be something that would be top of the list. If you’re a young emerging brand today, there is absolutely no way that you can produce something that is not with sustainability in mind.”

To learn more about Istituto Marangoni Firenze and Paul Andrew’s upcoming Mentorship program, CLICK HERE

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