Italian footwear designer working in Paris
Born: Pesaro, Italy, 30 August 1942. Education: Studied art and languages at University of Florence 1960-62, shoe design at Ars Sutoria, Milan, 1962. Career: Designed collections for Lanvin, Patou, in Paris, 1963; showed first collection under own label, 1965; opened first shop, Paris, 1967, and began production of own line, 1968; collaborated with Anne Klein, 1973-94; started shoe factory and introduced accessory line (belts, bags, scarves, jewelry), 1974; introduced ready-to-wear line, 1976; introduced lower-priced shoe range, 1990; invented colors and new finishings or prints for the Italian tannery Stefania, from 1990; artistic director of Bruno Magli Shoes since 1993. Exhibitions: Mostra d'epoca della calzatura, Vigevano, Italy; Andrea Pfister: Trente ans de création, (traveling exhibition), Musée International de la Chaussure, Romans, France, 1993-94; UBS-Brugg, Switzerland, 1994; Palazzo degli Affari, Milan, 1994-95; Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, 1996; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles, 1998; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, San Francisco, 1999. Collections: Metropolitan Museum, New York. Awards: Fashion Footwear Association of New York, Gold Medal, 1988; Designer of the Year, 1990 (for Anne Klein); first prize, shoe designer international competition, Amsterdam. Address: Viale dei Mille, 47, Vigevano 27029 (PV), Italy.
Liu, Aimee, and Rottman, Meg, Shoe Time, New York, 1986.
Trasko, Mary, Heavenly Soles, London, 1989.
McDowell, Colin, Shoes: Fashion and Fantasy, New York & London, 1989.
Hirmer, S., Schuhe, Munich, 1992.
Andrea Pfister: Trente ans de création [exhibition catalogue], Romans, France, 1993.
Mazza, Samuele, Andrea Pfister, Milan, 1998.
"Dateline Milan," in Footwear News (New York), 25 March 1985.
"Andrea Pfister," in Footwear News, 11 February 1991.
McKay, Deirdre, "Pflights of Pfancy: A Tribute to Andrea Pfister's Creative Passion," in Footwear News, 29 January 1996.
McKinney, Melonee, "Shoe Designer Andrea Pfister Does Accessories," in DNR, 23 April 1999.
Spindler, Amy, "The Two Gentlemen of Priano," in the New York Times, 23 January 2000.
"Pfister Acquired by Italian Fin. Part Group," in Footwear News, 5 March 2001.
Articles in Donna, Grazia, Panorama, (Italy), October 1993; further articles in Ars Sutoria, December 1993; Mode Pella January 1994; and Bazaar Italy, February 1994.
My shoes are feminine, sexy, full of humor and perfectly made. But a shoe cannot only be pretty—it has also to fit, not hurt. Colors, materials and clear lines are very important to me. I love flat heels and very high heels.
"If a beautiful woman's feet hurt, she becomes ugly." This is a typically robust statement from a designer whose opulent creations have been variously described as frivolous, witty, and even in dubious taste. Yet the success of his creations depends on the combination of proportion and line with comfort: "I always think shoes should be very feminine and sexy. Compromises are often necessary. It's easy to make wonderful looking shoes, but they also have to fit and be comfortable."
Andrea Pfister's shoes are essentially Italian in their craftsmanship and attention to detail. But there is an element of lightness and irreverence about his creations not usually associated with the traditional shoemaker. He improvises on themes—starry skies, the sea, music, circuses, and Las Vegas—designing shoes such as Martini Dry, with cocktail glass heels supporting slices of lemon. He uses applique motifs, so that when a sandal is called Jazz, it really does have a snakeskin saxophone on the upper.
Another reason for the originality of his work may be that unlike most footwear designers, Pfister is a colorist. Twice a year, he retreats for two months to prepare new collections. The starting point is always color, then he works on shape, proportion, and styling. He is involved with several tanneries, creating seasonal color charts and matching colors in diverse materials such as reptile and suede as a basis for his collections. Pfister's commitment to color also explains his copious use of ornamentation. Jewels, sequins, and glitter catch the light bouncing color off upper and heel as the shoes trip lightly along. The fullest ranges of materials are used to create the desired effects. He will use sumptuous handcrafted embroidery and silks and yet is equally at home with plastics and paste stones.
Despite the occasional jokiness of his themes, the shoes are true couture creations. Pfister has always been a couturier; he began his career at the top with Lanvin and Jean Patou at the age of 21. More recently, he created shoes for Italian dress designer Mariuccia Mandeli, whose Krizia collections are also often quirky, and for the Bruno Magli label. Pfister's business has evolved as well; in 2001 his company was acquired by Fin. Part Group, allowing the designer to retain creative control while reaching new markets.
Like all original designers, his ideas were plundered by others. Snakeskin, a favorite material, was used in multicolored patches over white kidskin on a court shoe called Mosaique. This style, from the early 1980s, is instantly recognizable because it has been copied so often. His most famous style must be the Birdcage shoe of 1979. This was a closed-back, opened-toed flat pump, with the main body constructed in an open latticework of thin leather straps. It spawned millions of copies. Its final form, far removed from the finely crafted snakeskin original, is as a molded plastic beach shoe. Pfister's style in his later collections became less ornate and subtler. Even as his personal style continues to evolve, museums across the globe have hosted retrospectives of his work, honoring his enduring influence and originality.
Pfister diversified into handmade handbags, scarves, leatherwear, gloves, neckwear, and even picture frames, but remains committed to producing beautiful shoes. His attitude toward fashion is relaxed. Pfister styles complement current trends but can also stand alone. He looks for this independence in his customers, including stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna. For him the client is "the woman who mixes different pieces—an Armani top, for instance, with a Donna Karan skirt, and a jacket by Ferré. My shoes work best on the woman who's sure enough of herself to create her own combination."
Andrea Pfister creates truly original footwear; though it may not be fashionable in a trendsetting sense. It may not always appeal to the mainstream idea of good taste, but the styles are extraordinary, often eccentric, and frequently enchanting, making him one of the most innovative designers of footwear.
updated by Megan Stacy