Designer Paul Andrew studied feet of 500 women to make sure his shoes fit

For his latest collection, British shoe designer Paul Andrew was inspired by the East-meets-West mix of Hong Kong.
For his latest collection, British shoe designer Paul Andrew was inspired by the East-meets-West mix of Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Paul Andrew’s signature Zenadia pump (above) in cheongsam silk jacquard and black wedgwood, which costs $1,390, from his Spring/Summer 2016 collection.
Paul Andrew’s signature Zenadia pump (above) in cheongsam silk jacquard and black wedgwood, which costs $1,390, from his Spring/Summer 2016 collection.PHOTO: ON PEDDER

The British shoe designer studied the feet of 500 women around the world in order to design shoes that marry both style and comfort

Before British shoe designer Paul Andrew launched his eponymous label in 2013, he studied the feet of 500 women from around the world.

Based on scans of the feet, including the arch, width and toe length, he discovered that women's feet today are a lot wider and have a more inclined arch compared to four decades ago.

The 37-year-old adds: "And because she wears shoes that have so much more support, such as sneakers, her body produces less natural collagen underneath the ball of her foot."

Based on these findings, he set out to design shoes that marry both style and comfort - and he appears to have hit a winning combination, going by the number of celebrities who have worn his heels on the red carpet.

Actresses Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong'o, as well as singer Taylor Swift, have all been spotted in his creations, in particular, his Zenadia pump.

While fairly simple looking, it is cut so that it grips the foot well. Its winged peaks are designed to accommodate both wide and narrow feet.

My personal preference for women’s shoes was always this refined, single-soled stiletto heel.The trend during that time had been a more chunky and sculptural shoe, and I felt like it was time to return to the idea of refinement and elegance. ’’

BRITISH SHOE DESIGNER PAUL ANDREW on his shoe designs

He says: "If your foot is narrow, it holds you in. If your foot is wide, it allows your foot to spread so that you do not fall out of the shoe."

Memory foam cushion is added to the area beneath the ball of the foot for added comfort.

The heel is also strategically "under-slung" under the wearer's heel, as opposed to being placed at the back of the shoe.

The positioning balances the weight of the wearer and makes it much more comfortable to stand in, explains Andrew.

His shoes are sold here at Pedder On Scotts and prices range from $790 for a pair of slingback flats to $2,860 for over-the-knee gladiator sandals. His Zenadia pumps start at $890 for a green suede pair.

The New York-based designer, who was in Singapore recently, says he knew from his teens that he wanted to be a shoe designer, thanks to British Vogue.

"British Vogue was such an inspiration - I remember seeing a picture of British model Stella Tennant wearing a bright orange capri pant with kitten heel slingback shoes," he recalls. "That still inspires me now and the slingback has become a part of my shoe vocabulary."

His father was the upholsterer to the Queen of England, while his mother was an executive at a technology company.

Andrew studied at the Berkshire College of Art and Design in England and, for his first job, apprenticed for the late Alexander McQueen. He later moved to New York, where he launched the footwear collection for fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez, before moving on to Calvin Klein and Donna Karan.

On why he decided to start his own label, he says: "My personal preference for women's shoes was always this refined, single-soled stiletto heel.

"The trend at the time had been a more chunky and sculptural shoe, and I felt like it was time to return to the idea of refinement and elegance."

In 2014, he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America/ Vogue Fashion Fund award, receiving nods from industry heavyweights such as US Vogue editor- in-chief Anna Wintour and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

Andrew says: "I have a lot of work to do still, but the idea that I am being taken seriously by these people and acknowledged for it - that was a major thing for me."

For his latest Spring/Summer 2016 collection, he was inspired by the East-meets-West mix of skyscrapers and "traditional Chinese stores" of Hong Kong, which he visited for the first time last January.

He also studied the colour palette of Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's movie In The Mood For Love (2000) and the cheongsam worn by actress Maggie Cheung's character.

The collection consists of heels and wedges wrapped in a dark blue and black floral jacquard and his signature Zenadia heels in colours such as blue, chrysanthemum yellow and teal. There are also trendy fringed flats and gladiator sandals.

Andrew now has his sights set on the men's market. Last week, he launched his debut collection for men at the New York Fashion Week: Men's presentation.

As he told The New York Times: "I didn't want to get too far down the line and stuck in this stigma of being a 'women's brand'... It's a selfish thing, also. I couldn't find shoes that I really liked, so why not make them?"

But he is not about to turn his back on women.

As he tells The Straits Times: "I love the idea that I am designing democratic fashion, the idea that you, your mother or grandmother can find something that works for their lifestyle."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Paul Andrew's well-heeled shoe'. Print Edition | Subscribe