Pierre Hardy never trained to be a footwear designer. In fact, he graduated from L’Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan with a teaching degree in plastic arts. He started teaching scenography in a theatre school, then Applied Arts at the Duperré school, both of which allowed him to work with his passions: Drawing and dancing.
In 1980, Hardy was hired as a stylist at Christian Dior’s women’s shoes department, before he left for Hermès in 1990 as its creative director for both men’s and women’s shoes.
“When I started it was really a new way to do fashion,” Hardy once said. “Hermès was not a fashion brand. That’s what I loved. That’s what pushed me to try. I did some sketches, maybe five groups, and said this would be my dream shoe if I was doing the shoes for the collection. It was so simple. It sounds naive today, but it was really so person-to-person.” From the day he was hired, Hardy single-handedly built up the shoe division from scratch and in 2001, he was also put in charge of Hermès fine jewellery division.
In 1999 — while still in Hermès — Hardy launched his own label Pierre Hardy, a collection of architectural, graphic and geometric shoes in splashes of colours. And for his debut, he created the Blade shoe, which was an instant runaway success.
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THE BLADE’S SHAPE IS REFINED, ASSURED AND RADICAL. ITS GEOMETRY SPEAKS TO THE EXTREMELY FEMININE CURVES OF THE FOOT AND ITS CLEAVAGE. THIS SCULPTURAL SHAPE, SEEN FROM ITS PROFILE VIEW, GALVANIZES THE CLASSICAL STILETTO AND BECOMES AND ICONIC STYLE. — AVAILABLE NOW, LINK IN BIO — #pierrehardy20 #20ansdeja #bladestiletto
“The Blade heel was a reference and rethinking of the stiletto,” Hardy said. “Sharp, skinny, in balance, but in a new way… If you look at the first drawings, they are quite rough. I think retrospectively it was something very strong.”
His unique creations soon took over the world. Today, Pierre Hardy has three boutiques in Paris, New York and Tokyo, and is also carried exclusively at On Pedder in Singapore.
Last year, Hardy celebrated his 20th anniversary for his eponymous brand and to commemorate this milestone, he launched a capsule collection inspired by his most archival models. The 20 Years Capsule Collection is a true testament to his signature style.
“I owe my taste for harmony, composition and balance to my classical background and culture. And it’s my artistic training that makes me want to redirect these notions, to contort and twist them, to liberate myself from them.”
Recently in Singapore, Hardy tells us how he stayed inspired throughout his illustrious career , what he thinks about sustainability in the luxury segment and his vision for Pierre Hardy in the future.
You not only design for Hermès but also for your own brand. How do you stay inspired?
I always want to translate the aesthetic I deeply love into the collections. For that, memories mixed with every day life combine together to create new shapes.
How do you differentiate your design approach between your own brand and Hermès?
At Hermès I have to play with an aesthetic that everybody knows such as the iconic shapes. And then I try to infuse those into new styles to make them alive and modern. When it comes to my own collection, I have to create from scratch the styles that hopefully will become the DNA of the brand.
You also design high jewellery for Hermès. How did the overlap happen?
They just proposed me to do it and I said yes. It took me only two minutes to agree to it.
How do you think your design approach has changed since your first collection and now?
The first collection was more like a statement, as if there will never be another season. Then as time passed, I think I learnt how to “open up” the collection to different styles and stories, just like when you first learn to talk.
There is so much talk about sustainable fashion these days. What are your thoughts on this sustainable movement flowing into the world of luxury?
I think it is a reality, a necessity we have to face. But we have to face it without hypocrisy. On one hand, leather is more and more difficult to source and produce, but on the other hand, nothing gives more comfort and durability to a pair of shoes. We also have to be specific on what we’re talking about when it comes to luxury. For example, for my own label, we only produce what it is ordered by our clients, and we have no stocks to destroy at the end of the season. We buy the exact quantity of material the production needs. Nothing more.
Generally speaking, I think that the topic of sustainability is now on everyone’s mind and it is probably a good thing because it will push the industry to research and find new solutions to produce new products. It can be a whole new dynamic.
How would you sum up the Pierre Hardy DNA?
Modern sensuality, strong femininity, as well as graphic lines.
What was the first item you designed for your 20th anniversary capsule collection?
I only re-edit, as they were. These are styles from the last 20 years of collections. I chose the ones I prefer and the ones that are still relevant and desirable for today.
Any favourite piece? And why?
One of my favourite pieces is the the first pair of black pumps (that I designed) called the Blade. It was and still is a milestone for me! And today, they still represent the essence of what I love.
Which type of shoes — sneakers, stilettos, flats etc — is the hardest to design, in your opinion?
I must say that designing sneakers has been quite a new challenge. It begun 15 years ago for me, but at that time, it was quite a classic style on classic soles (even if it was an exclusive design). Then in the last five years everything changed; each season I have to design from scratch, whether it’s a new volume, or newly designed technical soles, and I also played with many different textures and materials. It is a whole new game!
What are some of your favourite trends in the last 40 years in fashion?
The ‘60s stiletto. They’re simple and feminine.
Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life?
Studying arts and dance probably influenced me aesthetically, particularly contemporary forms of dance and art.
What has been the biggest highlight in the whole of your career?
This may sound weird but the biggest highlight for me is when we open a new store. The first one was in Paris at Palais Royal, then in New York and Tokyo. You are in the window, in real life, and no longer in the intimacy of the studio anymore.
Can you tell us your vision for Pierre Hardy in the future?
To grow up without going old or too big!
What does it take to be a successful footwear designer like you?
Ha ha! Success is a permanent job! I think you need to be consistent. You also need to love what you do, and you need to absolutely enjoy what you’re doing.
We read somewhere that you don’t go to flea markets or work on your own archives. Is there a reason why you’re not particularly fond of nostalgia?
I believe in “what’s next” more than what’s in the past. Plus we already have memories of what was before. I think that these memories are stronger and vivid enough to nourish the today creation.
What advice would you give to women and men when buying shoes?
Try them on! They make you look better.
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Singapore