Pierre Hardy’s Store Story
Published December 8, 2010
PHOTO BY SEAN THOMAS
He’s designed death-defying platforms for Balenciaga, exquisite chausseures for Dior, and the most elegant of equestrian accessories for Hermes. He’s won over the masses with his coveted collaborations with The Gap, and now, for the first time in his almost 25-year career, Pierre Hardy is opening a store in New York. Since launching his eponymous line of women’s and men’s shoes and handbags in 1999, Hardy has opened two luxe boutiques: the first in Paris’s fashion-centric Palais Royal and the second in the bohemian Left Bank’s Place du Palais Bourbon.
Nestled in a teeny-tiny garage haven on Jane Street, the shop’s interior was created in collaboration with innovative New York-based design firm, MR Architecture, and puts a modern yet delicate spin on the rich design of his Parisian boutiques. The store combines stark concrete display blocks, leather flooring, glass-smoked mirrors and the building’s original exposed brick walls to create an intimate shopping experience that echoes the multi-dimensional aesthetic of a Pierre Hardy shoe. We caught up with the light-hearted designer just before the New York launch to discuss his new boutique, an exclusive pair of Manhattan-themed shoes and how he feels about teetering on his toes in sky-high spikes.
KATHARINE ZARRELLA: What are your first memories of shoes? PIERRE HARDY: It was kids’ shoes. Not serious shoes. I remember perfectly, because my father was very sporty, so I remember his running shoes. And then my mother was into dance, so I remember her dance shoes. And for myself, the only shoes I remember are thongs. You know, the beach shoes for the summer. For real shoes, I have no memories. Just weird shoes.
ZARRELLA: Did you have a favorite pair as a child? HARDY: The ones I really wanted were burgundy loafers with fringes. Back in ’65, or something like that. ZARRELLA: What is your secret to the perfect pair of heels? HARDY: I think for me it’s a question of balance; balance between the shape and the volume of the heel and the shape and the volume of foot. The key is the relationship between this little emptiness that the heel creates and the feet. Also, the shape of the heel, which is just this little object that makes the shoe stand over the earth, and its relationship to the whole silhouette, is very important. ZARRELLA: Have you ever worn heels? HARDY: Yes, of course! But very rarely. They can be dangerous! It made me feel very vulnerable. ZARRELLA: Why did you choose this particular moment to launch your first Stateside boutique? HARDY: I didn’t choose this time. I wish I could have done it earlier. But I looked for the right spot for quite a long time, hesitating between uptown and downtown. And then I found this place in the West Village that was ideal for me because of the location and the size. It’s like a little house. Actually, my shop will probably be the littlest house in New York; just one floor. I find it so funny that it’s just this tiny thing in the middle of this big town. I like it quite a lot. ZARRELLA Why did you feel the West Village was the location for you? HARDY: Maybe because if I lived in New York permanently, that’s the area where I would live. ZARRELLA: What’s the design philosophy behind the store? HARDY: Well, in Paris, everything is protected and old. Everything is like an historic monument. So there, I’ve tried to make my boutiques as modern and as rough as possible. In New York, it’s very different because my little shop used to be a garage. Nothing precious. Because of this, I’ve tried to make the inside as precious as possible. The real challenge was to make it precious, but not old. So modernity and preciousness were the aims. And for the look, I tried to make it similar to the French shop. It’s black monochrome and we played with rich materials like glass, mirror, leather, and wood. ZARRELLA: What kind of experience do you want women to have in your new store? HARDY: I would hope that she would feel quite confident in the space, and protected in a way, because to take off your shoes and to try some others on, of course, it’s a pleasure and it’s quite exciting, but it makes you more fragile and you don’t want to be exposed to people on the street while you’re doing it. I hope people will be able to feel an intimacy. I hope they will take their time and feel secure in this space. And I hope they will discover the whole collection, because this is the first time it has been available in its entirety in the U.S.
ZARRELLA: When you’re not here opening boutiques, what’s your favorite thing to do in New York?
HARDY: You know, even if I go often to New York, it’s still something extreme for a French guy. I’ve always been impressed by the size and the scale so, for me, just looking at the town is very powerful. I think it’s one of the most visual towns in the world. So walking the street is my favorite thing. Then, of course, in the galleries and the museums, there is always something new and interesting. And that’s, for me, one of the main assets of New York: There is always something new and interesting that you can’t see anywhere else.
ZARRELLA: What is the ideal New York shoe?
HARDY: For the opening, I did a special shoe called “Skyline” because, like I told you, I love the buildings and the volume and the construction aspect of this town. I wanted to put all this in a shoe. So I tried to make everything, the shape, the heel, the platform, and the strap, look like New York. It’s silver, gold, and black. And it’s meant to recall the glass facades of the buildings.
ZARRELLA: Do you think a man’s shoe can be sexy in the same way a woman’s shoe can be sexy?
HARDY: I think it can be sexy in a very different way. It has to be sexy in a different way. For example for me, one of the sexiest shoes for men is a cowboy boot. I never wear it. It’s not my type at all. But it’s a very sexy shoe! I love it. So of course, the sexiness of a men’s shoe is there. It has to be, even if it’s more like a second-degree sexy.
ZARRELLA: What kind of shoes do you wear when you want to feel sexy?
HARDY: [LAUGHS] You know, I don’t want to say that I want to be sexy every day, but the desire to be seductive is always there, so I try, even with sneakers, to achieve that. ZARRELLA: As a designer who has been at the top of his industry for over two decades, how do you continue to reinvent yourself? HARDY: Because it’s fashion, you know? And I think what I really love about fashion is that you can start over and over and over every season. It’s not so heavy. It’s not so important. You can change your mind, and I think this is a big motivation to continue again and again. Fashion gives you the opportunity to renew yourself, and it never traps you in one position. So it’s a game for me. It’s not a problem. It’s more okay, let’s go again. And that’s what I love.
ZARRELLA: So what’s next?
HARDY: Route 66 runway. And I hope to open a shop in Los Angeles. ZARRELLA: And last but not least, why do you love designing shoes? HARDY: I don’t know. You know, I’m not a fetishist. It can sound strange, but I’m not obsessed with shoes. Maybe it’s because I never wanted to do fashion when I was younger. I studied fine arts, painting, sculpture and a little bit of architecture. I always loved creating things, designing and drawing things. So maybe I like designing shoes because they’re like sculptures. And even when they’re not being worn, they still have a presence.
PIERRE HARDY’S NEW YORK BOUTIQUE IS LOCATED AT 30 JANE STREET.