For devotees of men’s footwear, designer Paul Andrew’s name may be a new one. But that’s certainly not to say that he’s a novice. Having spent more than 15 years creating shoes for brands like Alexander McQueen and Calvin Klein, Andrew’s 2013-launched eponymous line of women’s shoes has already garnered him industry accolades like Accessory Designer of the Year from both the CFDA and the Vogue Fashion Fund. Given his design pedigree, it’s no wonder that when he expanded the line for Fall/Winter 2016 to include a men’s shoe collection for the first time, he was already on a firm footing—pun intended.
“I identified the fact there was a major lack of modern-looking men’s shoes in the market that were still wearable and fashionable, and I took it upon myself to make them,” Andrew told us, though he admits that his motivation had a personal slant to it as well. “It’s been a pretty selfish endeavor, because it’s also been about what I want to wear!”
And what he wants to wear, it turns out, is a sleek silhouette that puts a fresh spin on classic men’s footwear. In styles like bluchers, loafers, balmorals, and boots, Andrew has worked diligently to reshape the last—the form around which a shoe is built—to update the overall profile of each style. “There’s a modernity that looks good with the way men’s ready-to-wear silhouettes are going,” he tells us. “Men are wearing much slimmer, streamlined pants on one side, and much wider pants on the other. This shoe proportion seems to work well with both.”
In addition to reworking the shape of the shoes, Andrew brought to the project the same mindful approach he takes with his women’s shoes, putting the focus on craftsmanship, quality materials, and durability. Each of the shoes is handcrafted at an Italian factory that has been making shoes for over 200 years, so it was only through working closely with the artisans that he was able to meld their time-honored techniques with high-tech materials like air-injected lug soles and updated leathers.
“I’m using a lot of materials that are used in more traditional men’s shoes, like beautiful hand-stained tamponato or spazzolato leather, but then mixing them with a more modern sole. It’s taking those classic ideas and twisting them,” Andrew says, noting that he drew inspiration for unexpected combinations from seeing the way modern men dress—pairing jeans with dress shoes, or a tuxedo with sneakers. “I feel that’s what men are looking for now—they’re not looking for super tricky, ostentatious shoes. It’s a return to a more refined look, but one that’s still relevant.”
That sense of modernity also applies to a concept that Andrew put front and center in his design process: durability. “I’ve done a lot of work with some of my favorite tanneries, both in France and in Italy, to produce calfskins that not only look good, but that will last. There’s a waterproofing technique, and also, if you scuff the leather, you just take the felt bag that comes in the shoe box, buff the shoe, and it comes right back to its original brilliance.”
Since these are shoes that you’ll be keeping for a long time, Andrew was also quick to point out the fact that he’s taken great lengths to keep you from pain, putting an emphasis on building comfort into each shoe in the collection. “If you buy a traditional bench-made shoe today, most guys will find that the first few times you put them on, it’s murder. They rip your feet to pieces!” he says. From extra padding added to the insole—a rare treat in men’s shoes—to that already-mentioned redesigned last that ensures an amazing fit in addition to its modern shape, Andrew has thought of everything to create a shoe that men will love.
Form meets function; style meets comfort; and traditional meets modern—these are a few of the delicately balanced contrasts Andrew tackles with the collection, and perhaps the most important of these is the lattermost. “I’m really interested in the idea of combining high craft and high tech. That seems like the future of the footwear industry to me—or at least as far as what I’m interested in doing.”