Game Of Shoes: Fashion's Top Footwear Designers Talk Inspiration And Idols

Bold shapes, vibrant colours, innovative details. Salvatore Ferragamo's Paul Andrew, Roger Vivier's Gherardo Felloni, Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo and more open up about the stories they want to tell, the designers they look up to and creating one-of-a-kind shoes
Reading time 30 minutes

Paul Andrew, Salvatore Ferragamo

The son of an upholsterer to Queen Elizabeth II, Paul Andrew designs shoes fit for royalty. The Englishman had headed up his namesake footwear label for three years by the time Salvatore Ferragamo tapped him in 2016 as its design director of shoes. Rising swiftly through the ranks, Andrew was promoted to creative director in 2019, and tasked with unifying the vision of the Florentine house. 

L'Officiel: How would you describe your approach to creating the accessories and ready-to-wear collections?

Paul Andrew: The shoes are the ones that dictate and define the silhouettes and proportions of the ready-to-wear line. My approach is literally from toe to head, and my aim is to find the right balance between the accessories and the clothes in a collection. I've chosen a strong sense of tailoring, and adapted it to the different archetypes of femininity. And I've kept the joyful colours that have always played a part in the brand's heritage. 


LO: The Fall/Winter 2020 collection has a lot of leather garments...

PA: I was struck by how little leather was being used in [Salvatore Ferragamo's] ready-to-wear. Personally, I love to create wearable and comfortable pieces out of leather, the kind that can be handed down through the generations. 


LO: What are some of the most important models for Fall/Winter 2020? 

PA: I would say the Viva slingback and the Viva stretched boot. 


LO: Salvatore Ferragamo was a true maestro of footwear, with an almost inexhaustible imagination and creativity. He designed Judy Garland's Rainbow platform sandal, the "Invisible Sandal", the 1930s pyramid heel and more. How do you carry on such an impressive heritage?

PA: There are nearly 15,000 pairs of shoes in the Ferragamo archive, and it would be really foolish to ignore that. I always start in the archive, but in a conceptual instead of literal sense. Take the 1947 Invisible Sandal in nylon, for example. I'm not so much interested in imitating Salvatore Ferragamo as pondering how he defied gravity with them. 


LO: Besides Ferragamo, are there any other shoemakers you consider interesting?

PA: Salvatore Ferragamo has always been my point of reference — I am fascinated by not only his creative genius, but also his resilience in overcoming obstacles such as war and poverty. I also find Charles Jourdan and Maud Frizon interesting. 


LO: You started working at Alexander McQueen...

PA: I remember my time at McQueen as a moment of extraordinary openness. I came from a very structured school, but at McQueen, there was an almost crazy creative freedom. There wasn't even a calendar! That's how I realised you can't put a limit on design or creativity — McQueen never gave in to merchandising. 


LO: How would you define the Ferragamo style?

PA: Ferragamo is not trendy, it is not ostentatious, it is not vulgar. It is sophisticated, it is timeless, and it is rooted in a careful balance between the masculine and the feminine, to the point that I often design the two collections simultaneously. Streetwear has never been of interest to me. Casual and functional style is my priority, but my version of casual has nothing to do with streetwear or sportswear. 


LO: Do you find it easier to design for men or for women?

PA: Menswear is more immediate because I use myself as a point of reference. But with women it's about fantasy, although I work with a lot of women.  


LO: One of the goals you set for yourself when you became creative director was to bring cohesion to the brand. Do you think you've achieved that?

PA: I think it is cohesive with regard to the collection and the campaign, but to be truly cohesive, you have to be able to enter a store and understand the brand with one glance. In reality, however, Ferragamo has some 650 stores around the world, and an audience between 16 and 90 years of age, so that makes it difficult, maybe even impossible.


LO: You have a strong commitment to sustainability...

PA: I think it's essential to reduce our impact on the environment. We have started upcycling leather offcuts, which we use for patchwork and decorations. We were among the first to make use of orange fibre, which is similar to silk. We recover nylon from recycled plastic bottles, and we rarely use exotic skins. We have implemented a water consumption reduction programme, and we are using more vegetable-based dyes for our leather. I am aware that this is only the start, but we are extremely motivated to continue on in this direction.

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Gherardo Felloni, Roger Vivier

Creative director of Roger Vivier since March 2018, Gherardo Felloni got his start at a very young age with Fabrizio Viti at Helmut Lang. He then became Fabio Zambernardi's assistant at Miu Miu, where he spent 10 years. In 2009 he left for Dior, only to return to Miu Miu again.

For Felloni, the Maison, which was founded in 1937 and purchased by Della Valle in 2001, has always been a point of reference, not only for the iconic décolleté with its oversized buckle created in ʼ65 for Yves Saint Laurent, but also for the creativity of its founder, whose shoes attracted everyone from Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Queen Elizabeth II. 

L'Officiel: Your parents owned a shoe factory. Was that the origin of your passion for footwear?

Gherardo Felloni: It is true that at the age of four I was going to the factory to play, but it was only when I was at Prada that I realised my passion for shoes. They have an enormous influence on the silhouette. Changing the shoe changes the character of the clothes and the attitude of the woman.


LO: What does it mean to you to work for Roger Vivier?

GF: Roger Vivier has always been an absolute inspiration, and entering his archive was always a dream of mine. He is the one who invented the Virgule heel and the Banane heel. When Catherine Deneuve puts on those shoes with the chrome-plated buckle in Belle de Jour, it's a revolution for the silhouette of the '60s — comfortable and designed for walking.

Today we consider it elegant, but back then it was casual. I like to say I am lucky, because the brand matches me — there is a kind of alchemy between my imagination and that of Roger Vivier. Like me, he loved cinema and theatre, and he admired Joséphine Baker even though she was never a client of his. To speak of my shoes, I use actresses, not models. I am interested in the personality of the wearer.


LO: In fact, you created short films with Deneuve herself, as well as Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci.

GF: I've always loved Christina. The only dress I imagined in my life was for her, for the Oscars dinner. I had it made in an atelier in Paris with a vaguely Victorian feel, because she is so inherently Goth (as with her most famous roles in The Addams Family, Sleepy Hollow etc.), in emerald green embroidered with crystals, and with a train.


LO: You started with shoes but you've also designed bags and jewellery. Have you thought about a capsule of clothing?

GF: I'd love to. I started creating bags and jewellery at Miu Miu. Although the transition from shoes to bags is neither natural nor taken for granted, with shoes you get into them, and with bags, you put things in them. As for jewels, I've always enjoyed making them, and I have so much fun with them.


LO: Is it true that your passion for jewellery began by observing Manuela Pavesi? After you saw her “in an emerald necklace [and] a green Nike nylon jacket"?

GF: Manuela was hypnotic — she could wear anything and make it look totally contemporary. She took a necklace from the 1800s and paired it with a nylon jacket and wedges. It was she who directed me to the historic Pennisi jewellery shop, where I bought my first jewellery. 


LO: You've worked with some exceptional creatives...

GF: From [Fabrizio] Viti, I learned conceptuality; from Helmut Lang, who is a true genius, I understood that emphasis on the product, on the savoir-faire, makes no sense. What really matters is the concept. From Miu Miu, I learnt to abandon a snobbish approach to beauty — Miuccia Prada was the first to see beauty in trash, and working for her was a long exercise in mental elasticity. From [John] Galliano I learned about speed, and I understood the meaning of glamour. It's a word I hate, but his was an exaggerated and sublime glamour. 

In contrast, Raf Simons wanted to make everything real. From him, I learned  about lightness — I would say Raf found power in lightness. And with my second stint at Miu Miu, I learned how to manage a brand, and I was one of the few people given the opportunity to express themselves within the Prada group, which I am extremely grateful for.


LO: Going back to Vivier, what is the most important model for Fall/Winter 2020?

GF: The cuissards. Vivier invented them, and Brigitte Bardot embodied their spirit perfectly. It was in 1967 or 1968 that these thigh-high boots captured a desire for change and emancipation. Every season, I try to reinterpret a classic Vivier theme, and I had the feeling these boots had been neglected for far too long. 


LO: You mentioned Vivier's archive earlier...

GF: It is immense. At first, I immersed myself in it, but now I would define it as a casual relationship. I like to remember his work, and I've been looking at it for 20 years in books, but I never take old models in hand.


LO: And we come to the codes of the Maison...

GF: I started working aged 18, and understanding how to convey your ideas to others is very complex. I have a list in my brain with everything Roger Vivier must always and must never be — there must always be an element of irony, and there must never be anything trashy or of bad taste. And then, of course, there is Della Valle's savoir-faire and comfort.


LO: What about sustainability?

GF: As compared to those who preceded me, I've introduced fewer prototypes. But I would say that a niche Maison is sustainable by definition — we make shoes practically to order.

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Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo

Sexy sandals, graceful flats, ultra-feminine pumps, boots that instill confidence, the masterly use of rhinestones, fringe and colour... No wonder that, for 25 years, Jimmy Choo's shoes have been objects of desire for many, from a fictional character like Carrie Bradshaw to real-life royalty like Kate Middleton. Behind the brand's success is Sandra Choi, who started working from a young age at the East End London store where her uncle Jimmy Choo created handmade shoes for an exacting elite. In 1996,  when the ready-to-wear line was born and the first store opened on Motcomb Street, Choi became creative director, a role she continues to hold following her uncle's retirement in 2001. 

L'Officiel: What is your favourite model of Fall/Winter 2020?

Sandra Choi: The Marcela pump. Crafted in leather or embossed snakeskin, the shoe, with its hyper-graphic silhouette and asymmetrical square toe, recalls the facets of Jimmy Choo's iconic jewel, and rests on a new heel, the Scoop.


LO: Which is your most popular model?

SC: The Minny is our most iconic shoe. No other shoe has been worn more often on red carpets around the world.


LO: What are the distinctive features of a Jimmy Choo shoe, which make it immediately recognisable?

SC: Style, glamour and inimitable self-confidence.


LO: What are some of the innovations you've introduced over the years?

SC: We've always tried to be innovative in design, introducing different types of heels over time, such as last season's Kick Heel, which tapers near the sole. And we've also introduced real technological innovations, such as the Voyager heated boots, with a temperature that can be controlled via an app to keep your feet warm.


LO: Which shoe designers do you admire most?

SC: Roger Vivier has always been a source of inspiration. And I love Terry de Havilland. He experimented relentlessly and conveyed a sense of audacity and fun, and he worked for extraordinary figures such as David Bowie and Bianca Jagger. 

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Pierre Hardy, Hermès

Pierre Hardy has been creative director of Hermès footwear since 1990. In 1998, he introduced sneakers to the collection, which were immediately brought to the catwalk by Martin Margiela, an absolute novelty for a luxury house at the time. From 2001 to 2012, while continuing to work for Hermès, he also designed shoes for Balenciaga in the era of Nicolas Ghesquière. 

L'Officiel: What makes an Hermès shoe immediately recognisable?

Pierre Hardy: First of all, the high quality of the materials, and then an emotion, a dialogue, a recurring tension between the already-seen and the new, and between being recognised and being surprising. Colour and geometry are hallmarks of my work, but I would like to say that when I started out, the range of colours was very limited. However, it is always a matter of upsetting and playing with the codes of the Maison, which I am continuing to discover in the archives. 


LO: What must never be in an Hermès model?

PH: There are no limits, today, everything is possible. 10, 15 years ago I would have been able to give an answer, because then the audience was more conservative. However, it must be a design that lasts over time, without compromising on quality. 


LO: What is the most important model of the season? 

PH:  Probably the pump with the Chaîne d'Ancre heel, where the know-how of the two sectors (footwear and jewellery) in which I work blend organically with the ease and intimacy that exists between my right and left hand. But from a personal point of view, it is very difficult to say, because I put the same energy and creativity into everything I do.


LO: And the most important models over the years? 

PH: In terms of success, the Oran sandal, a best-seller for 25 years, which I could never have predicted when I designed it. And of course, Kelly's padlocked riding boots, which are reinterpreted every season. I think this is something you can only find at Hermès, an organic style that is always evolving. And I'm talking about evolution, not progress. 


LO: On your Instagram, there are works by Frank Stella, Ettore Sottsass, Ólafur Elíasson and more...

PH: I always try to not be too literal with art, but it is impossible to ignore. I can't explain why I love certain artworks, but I try to find its equivalence in fashion. 


LO: From Martin Margiela to Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski, how has working with these different designers influenced your approach?

PH: Most of the footwear is made long before you start thinking about the show, although there are designs created specifically for the runway. Martin Margiela wanted just one shoe, while Jean-Paul Gaultier wanted one thousand. 


LO: What designers do you look up to and like?

PH: I really like André Perugia (discovered by Paul Poiret and the collaborator of Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy etc.). So poetic. And I find 1980s Walter Steiger brilliant.


LO: You were a dancer. Did this impact how you conceive your shoes?

PH: Perhaps in a broad sense, for a greater awareness of posture. A shoe is something that you add to your body in order to change it and to change your attitude.


LO: Is there any model that you dream of making?  

PH: Do you mean the impossible shoe? I love walking barefoot. I am Mediterranean, I love the heat, I hate winter and the obligation of wearing shoes. Being barefoot is my lost paradise, and the Greek sandal is the closest I can get to it . 

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Edgardo Osorio, Aquazzura

Edgardo Osorio's Instagram is a succession of fabulous hotel suites and exotic destinations, with him often dressed in a tuxedo and always surrounded by beautiful women. Only occasionally do his shoes for Aquazzura appear: the Papillon sandal with embroidered butterflies, the Bow Tie in fiery red satin... Born in Colombia and raised between Miami and London, Osorio studied at the London College of Fashion as well as Central Saint Martins, and started out working for Salvatore Ferragamo, followed by Caovilla and Roberto Cavalli. 

“I knew I was creative and that I wanted to work in fashion since I was 10 years old. And, once I started, I quickly realised that I was interested in accessories, not clothes," Osorio says. 

L'Officiel: And you have chosen to settle in Florence, at Palazzo Corsini.

Edgardo Osorio: I arrived in Italy at 19, when I started working at Ferragamo. I immediately had that strange feeling of having already lived here in another life. And then for those who make accessories, Florence is the city par excellence. There are other production districts, such as the Veneto, Parabiago and Les Marches, but in Tuscany, you have the largest concentration of artisans and tanneries in the world. I consider Aquazzura a fully-fledged Italian brand, and I chose to live here because proximity to the product is essential for me and I love spending time in the factory with the artisans.  


LO: You launched Aquazzura in 2011 at the age of 25, and according to fashion legend, your first collection sold out immediately at Barneys.

EO: I launched the brand just when social media was emerging, and word of mouth had an exponential effect.


LO: You've done many collaborations, including with Claudia Schiffer, Olivia Palermo and Poppy Delevingne.

EO: Those were all organic collaborations, born out of friendships with women that I deeply admire. I am a man who designs for women, and I have a constant need for feedback, so that I can compare myself with other points of view.


LO: Is there an outstanding model in your Fall/Winter 2020 collection?

EO: Winter is, more than ever, a season of strong contrast between the day, where I introduced combat boots for the first time, and the evening, where the most glamorous shoe is the Proust Pump with its rhinestone stars and moon and hourglass heel.


LO: What about in the history of the brand?

EO: Our iconic pump is the Bow Tie, which is sensual and light. But in general, I think the name Aquazzura evokes the image of a sexy sandal tied at the ankle.


LO: Colour is a hallmark of Aquazzura...

EO: I love colour, it fascinates me. Even a woman who dresses strictly in black, if she wants to, will choose to do colour with her shoes. 


LO: Your passion for interior design, very evident in your boutiques, led you to collaborate with de Gournay. Do you have other collaborations lined up?

EO: I'm working on a home collection that will launch next year.


LO: And the planned launch of Aquazzura bags?

EO: Next summer. It will be very special and out of the box. I don't intend to launch a "safe" model in a thousand colour variations.

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Julia Toledano, Nodaleto

Nodaleto's style embodies a hybrid identity between sex appeal and rigour. Made in Venice, but based between Paris and Los Angeles, Nodaleto is a brand of glamour and sculpture, guided by the design of Julia Toledano and the imagination of Olivier Leone. In just two years, Nodaleto has already appeared on the feet of celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa.

L'Officiel: What does Nodaleto stand for?

Julia Toledano: Nodaleto is an anagram of my surname, and the brand is an ode to my heritage. The Toledanos were originally from Spain, but moved to Morocco in the 1950s. Our symbolic colour is a shade of mandarin, which borrows from the sunsets of Málaga and Casablanca, where my father Sidney (the CEO of LVMH) was born. And the vibe is a blend of '70s America and Paris of the '90s, where I studied. 


LO: What is your favourite model of the season?

JT: The Bulla Babies have been a best-seller since the very first collection. An ode to childhood and adolescence, this shoe is innocent but mischievous. It represents a young woman who sneaks out to the club, and although she may change her outfit, she keeps her "babies" on. Now, they're launching with a mini trapeze heel and a maxi one! 


LO: What are your thoughts on sustainability?

JT: Traceability is very important to us. In fact, we work only locally with a family-run factory. Shoemaking is an art, and sustainability means making a special object last as long as possible.


LO: Who are the designers you look up to? And which shoe would you like to have invented? 

JT: Manolo Blahnik, Sergio Rossi, Roger Vivier and many more! I wish I'd been the one to create the Go-Go boots by André Courrèges in the 1960s. Nancy Sinatra's song, 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin' was referring to those boots, which came back into fashion in the mid-1990s and inspired my own platform style.

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Fabio Ducci, OLG

The CEO of OLG (Onward Luxury Group), Fabio Ducci heads the Italian arm of the Japanese group, which was born in 2012 from the merger of Gibò (a textile company that in its golden years produced Giorgio Armani, Moschino, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Helmut Lang) and Iris (the luxury factory that exploded in popularity with the success of Marc Jacobs' Mouse). 

In addition to several ready-to-wear lines, OLG is responsible for the footwear of Jil Sander as well as (under license) Proenza Schouler, Rochas, Elie Saab, JW Anderson and See by Chloé. With the main manufacture on the Riviera del Brenta, OLG also owns a site dedicated to luxury sneakers by Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Gucci. 

L'Officiel: Shall we take stock of your brands?

Fabio Ducci: Proenza Schouler performs very well, as does JW Anderson. Rochas is a bit stuck at the moment, because Interparfums decided to break off its relationship with Alessandro Dell'Acqua, who was creative director for five years. 


LO: How do you manage all the different identities without risking cannibalisation?

FD: It is essential to keep the brands well separated, avoiding the overlap of teams and supply chains. Each brand is followed by a dedicated research manager, technical staff and pattern-makers. Ours is a work of co-creation, an authentic expression of brand partners. 

To a brand like Elie Saab, which does not have specific footwear expertise, we provide stylistic support through the collaboration of freelancers, plus an internal research and design structure. 

For JW Anderson, on the other hand, he sends us his technical drawings, which is the starting point for our creation of prototypes. Our design and development structure is comparable to that of the large luxury groups. We make all the prototypes in-house without using subcontractors, and we have always invested in the most advanced machinery. Of course, we also do research and supervise the procurement of raw materials as well as production and distribution. 


LO: What prompted you to found two internal brands, F_WD and Carlotha Ray?

FD: A desire to create sustainable footwear with a transparent supply chain. To launch F_WD, we discovered new suppliers across Spain, Portugal, Eastern Europe and the USA. In each F_WD shoe, a number is stamped to indicate the percentage of recycled materials used. That is a complex process, because you need to replace almost all coventional materials, including rivets and rings, with sustainable ones. I would define it as an experimental laboratory that helps us maintain a critical approach towards ourselves.


LO: Does it still make sense to talk about the superiority of Italian footwear? 

FD: In my 32 years of work, I have not yet found a level of quality comparable to Italy anywhere else. I believe that Italy still holds the record in terms of the technical competence of its artisans. 

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