It’s not surprising that Paul Andrew chose Virginia Gardner, who plays one of Marvel Universe’s biggest rebels, as his inspiration this season. He’s got a track record with onscreen rule-breakers. While preparing for his debut as the creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo this past February, Andrew spent hours “devouring” The Crown. Andrew, a Brit, was especially drawn to Princess Margaret, as portrayed by Vanessa Kirby. “She was this naughty, debauched royal,” he says. Inspired by the character, he fantasized a scene where, following a wild night out, the princess remembers she has to feed the palace chickens. “She throws on this poncho and a pair of ostrich boots, and goes out onto the farm,” he says, smiling. That moment—where excess meets everyday—would manifest itself on the Ferragamo runway, which saw slinky dresses topped with ponchos and worn with flat boots. Andrew delights in taking “old-fashioned, aristocratic dress codes and bringing them to the streets.”
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That Andrew was enamored with the unruly Margaret as opposed to, say, Claire Foy’s proper queen makes sense. Salvatore Ferragamo, too, was drawn to iconoclasts: Think of Ferragamo client Katharine Hepburn, Andrew’s other lodestar for the collection. As he points out, the Hollywood icon proudly sported trousers at a time when women could be arrested for doing so. Since the fall 2018 show also marked the first time the 91-year-old brand showed mens- and womenswear together, Hepburn’s androgyny was a natural meeting point for the new creative director and Ferragamo’s menswear designer, Guillaume Meilland. The two worked together closely, often switching up looks willy-nilly. “Suddenly, a men’s coat was on the female model,” and vice versa, Andrew says—a timely approach to design for a younger generation not hung up on classic gender roles.
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Andrew grew up in Berkshire, west of London, the son of an upholsterer to the queen. After graduating from the Berkshire College of Art and Design, he quickly landed an internship at Alexander McQueen, working with Lee himself before relocating to New York. There, he logged time at three emblematic American brands: Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan.
Andrew’s big breakthrough in the industry came when he launched his namesake line of eminently wearable heels in 2012. Four years later, he was tapped as design director of women’s shoes at Ferragamo, bringing with him his obsession with comfort. Now he’s applying that ease to a full collection. “I was a little daunted in the beginning,” he admits. “I had studied ready-to-wear back in school, quite some time ago. I wondered, I made a name for myself in shoes—could I be that good in clothing, too? But ultimately, design is design. If you told me to design a chair or a table or a hotel suite, I know that I could do that.”
It helped that he had access to the Ferragamo archives, housed at Palazzo Spini Feroni in Florence. After sifting through thousands of treasures, he kept thinking about the iconic Rainbow wedge, originally created for Judy Garland, and decided to incorporate that spectrum of hues into the collection. He also discovered foulard prints circa 1990, which he asked his team to re-create, spliced together for an edgier feel.
At the show, Virginia Gardner, a star of Hulu’s Runaways—on which she plays one of the first openly gay Marvel characters—sat front row, next to Danai Gurira and Shailene Woodley. Andrew is keenly aware that he is designing for a new generation of stars, one that has been shaped by activism and that values substance as much as it does style. When he describes Gardner, he talks up her Grace Kelly–like features but also her dedication to campaigning for the LGBTQ community. “She speaks to the Ferragamo past and future for me.”
“Watching the runway show,” Gardner tells me, “I had several moments where I thought to myself, I want to wear that.” She points to the suiting look she wore on ELLE’s shoot as a favorite: “an incredibly luxurious, feminine take on a masculine silhouette.” The show marked her first international fashion experience, and it sounds like it won’t be her last. “Let’s just say I foresee lots of frequent-flyer miles in the future.” As for Andrew’s future inspiration, a Hulu binge just might be in order.
Top photo: Paul Andrew with actress Virginia Gardner. On her: Suede jacket, $3,700, cotton blouse, $760, wool turtleneck, $760.
Styled by Zadrian Smith; hair by Armando Cherillo and makeup by Martina D’Andrea, both at Atomo Management
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE.