Fashion

A chat with Pierre Hardy, the ‘architect of shoes’

The luxury shoe designer was in town to celebrate his eponymous label’s 20th birthday with The 20 Years Capsule Collection
 

Photo: On Pedder

A teacher, dancer, creative director, and designer, there are many reasons why Pierre Hardy is “fashion’s favourite brainiac”. In celebration of his eponymous label turning 20, On Pedder is featuring in stores an Asia exclusive titled “The 20 Years Capsule Collection” — a curation of Hardy’s most iconic models from the killer Blade of 1999 to the modern chic Sottsass of 2013. 

Hardy has worked with On Pedder from as early as he can remember. “They came to Paris, saw my collection and the rest is history,” he chuckles. “They have been very nice and trustworthy.”

Apart from the success of his cult-followed label, Hardy is also known for maintaining the role of creative director for Hermes men’s and women’s shoes and jewellery collections for 29 years now. 

Personally presenting the capsule collection at On Pedder in Singapore on Nov 11, we had a chat with the genius himself on his eclectic inspirations what it takes to survive as a shoe designer. 

Pierre Hardy at Pedder on Scotts

Why 20th? 

*laughs* 20 is a good number. It feels right. 

Do you have a favourite design from The 20 years Capsule Collection? 

This is a very complicated question. Fashion is in permanent motion. We never stop and the next is always better. But of course, the first one is always my big love - the blade heel - because this was my first statement for everyone: this is what I am, take it or leave it. 

Why do you think the blade heel continues to be so desirable after 20 years?

It is quite simple. In the beginning when I did it I wanted something that looked like the regular stiletto from the 60’s - the iconic shape of shoe that the woman always loved. But I wanted to put a modern twist to it. I think the memory and charm of what the stiletto used to be is still there, and that is probably why it is still relevant. 

When you designed it, who was the woman you had in mind? 

She’s very feminine, but I wouldn’t say sexy. Strong, that’s for sure. And modern - especially in her way of thinking, she doesn’t look back. She’s also dynamic. 

Tell us how you’d style the blade heel.

Just tights on. Nothing else. In this moment, you can wear whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Fashion is not about wearing this with that, in fact, it is the contrary. It is about mixing and making jokes. 

How long is the whole process to design and create a shoe?

To draw a shoe it takes five seconds! But to make it happen, it’s almost six months. And the longest part of it all is what goes on before those 5 seconds. People say that Picasso only took ten minutes to draw some of his work, but no, it took a lifetime. Well I’m not Picasso but it definitely took a long time! Some designs happen quickly and organically, but some I have to keep revisiting, so it depends. 

What is the most important trait a footwear designer should have?

You really have to love it because it is very specific. The space for creativity is really not that big, and the rules of the body are so strong. You really have to consider the woman and the object - they must match.  

So you’re known for your architectural designs.

I didn’t study fashion, so I don’t know how to make clothes. However, I did study architecture, sculpture, painting, and drawing. So how I design now is the result of I love and what I used to do. I make shoes with my own tools. 

And you were also a dancer? 

That’s right. I did modern and contemporary dance for about 15 years - I started when I was 13 and danced till I was about 28. I did ask myself at that point if I would prefer to be a dancer or an artist, and I decided to drop dance. I do miss it, but not so much anymore because I’m too old for that now. 

Has it also influenced the way you design? 

Dance has in some ways influenced the way I design. It gives you a very specific attention to the body, not just to your own but also to others’. When I design, I subconsciously remind myself of the way one moves, jumps, and walks. But I’ve never tried to explicitly express the idea of dance in my shoes. There is something in the knowledge of the body and movement that probably infuses itself in the way I do things.  

How would you describe your designs in three words? 

Modern. Strong. New femininity. 

New femininity? 

I think there is a lot of cliche surrounding femininity and sex appeal. I think it is fun. Girls want to play with it sometimes. But not all the time. You can wear these heels if you want to, but it is a choice, you don’t have to. And that’s modern femininity - the freedom to choose.

It sounds like you’re a feminist. 

Of course! 

What was the last thing that you called beautiful?

It was an exhibition in Greece of a modern sculpture set in a ruin. Can you imagine the shock between the two cultures? It was beautiful, and it really inspired me - the ultra modern and the ultra-old.

Do you think trends are important when designing?

No. But of course, there are many trends in the collection - there are boots, sneakers, flats, etc. And when you look at the fashion shows today, they have everything! The streets are the same. Trends are actually...irrelevant. 

Are there shoe trends you dislike? 

A lot! Crocs. But, sometimes ugliness can become beautiful. Birkenstocks for example,  it used to be ugly and now we love it. 

Which shoe trends do you love? 

Personally, I love western boots. I think it is the sexiest boots for men. But I never wear it. It’s just not for me. 

What has been your most memorable achievement in these 20 years?

When we opened our store in Paris. I realised that I was out! When you’re working for a brand, it’s quite discreet, like you have a screen in front of you. But as soon as you open something on the street, you’re public. Your name is on the box. It was a really big step for me mainly because I never thought about it. It was a step by step thing where opening a shop became the only logical thing to do. As more people bought my shoes, we realised we needed to exist in a different way. So it was never a plan or a strategy. 

Where do you see yourself/ your brand in 5 years?

I think a brand is like a person. It is growing and we have to help it. We will probably open new stores. But looking at how fashion has changed over the last few years, perhaps the way to ‘grow up’ would be different from how it used to be. I don’t know if the solution is to have a bigger space and more and more of everything. While big brands might be doing it, I ask myself if I have to do the same, or if I can find a new solution. It is a perpetual questioning about how to continue to be yourself while evolving. We think about this all the time. 

Do you have any fears? 

Oh, nightmares! We are not alone in this industry. There are a lot of logistical concerns for an independent brand. We have to be careful about what we are doing and make sure we are proposing something relevant. The only way to stay relevant is to be creative - that’s my main weapon.

The 20 Years Capsule Collection is available at On Pedder, Pedder on Scotts now. While stocks last. 

ALSO READ: GABRIELA HEARST MAKES ITS SINGAPORE DEBUT AT ON PEDDER

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