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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Paul Mayer, Creative Director of Paul Mayer Attitudes Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

Paul Mayer, Creative Director of Paul Mayer Attitudes

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Growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Paris, Paul Mayer was highly influenced by the cultural aspects of the fashion-driven capital of the world. His mother Mathilde Mayer was a perfect Chanel customer. She had four Chanel tweed suits: navy and turquoise, dark blue, light pink and purple and classic black. Though Paul admired both and the beauty and craftsmanship of the Chanel suit, the shopping excursions he accompanied his mother on were for her footwear, establishing an early education for young Paul who would later set the world on fire with the best ballet flat known to women.

In France, it was customary to invest in three pairs of shoes annually and Mathilde Mayer brought Paul with her to Charles Jourdan in Paris at Place de la Madeleine. She bought navy, black patent and a cognac shade of a classic pump. The Charles Jourdan brand, founded in 1910 headquartered in Romans, France, set the standard in fashion and opened their Paris store in 1957. Later in 1959, they were granted a license to design and manufacture Christian Dior. There were few imports and French shoemaking was still regarded as high quality. 

At this point in time, Paul viewed shoes as a necessity though his design career was budding since he made jewelry that he sold in St. Tropez on the Cote D’Azur on the pier of the harbor when he was eleven. Paul crafted slave Egyptian style bracelets for the upper arm. At ages eleven and twelve, Paul was an enterprising entrepreneur with sellout collections leaving him laughing all the way to his overflowing piggy bank bursting with bills. Very cute, Paul developed a summer clientele that took him seriously, purchasing his bracelets, rings and suede beige natural shirts as well as spray painted hand designs. At age 12, Paul successfully sold these shirts for a sensible amount: their dearness exceeded a bottle of Krug at famed clubs Papagayo or Byblos of Les Caves du Roy. Paul’s great uncle Charles and Paul’s father George set a precedent for entrepreneurship in the Mayer family in their agricultural machinery business, which was far from fashion yet central to business building.

In 1974, Paul Mayer left Europe to establish residence in Montreal, Quebec. One day, Paul walked in the Charles Jourdan Montreal store and found the display a shocking contrast to the pure beauty he remembered from the Place de la Madeline store. Proud of his French heritage and personal knowledge of fashion, Paul queried the employees on why the store didn’t look great. He was hired on the spot, and began working there the following Monday.

The first thing Paul Mayer did at his first day at Charles Jourdan was rearrange everything from the sofa to the hosiery displays, and he was the Montreal store coordinator.  In 1977, Paul had the opportunity to travel to Manhattan to the typically gorgeous Charles Jourdan store here, which we believe was located at the current location of the Peninsula Hotel. 

Paul met the sales agent for Pancaldi, a dominant women’s shoe brand of the time which also designed and manufactured Walter Steiger, who is Paul’s favorite shoe designer to this day. Pancaldi also made Manolo Blahnik shoes at that time which was early in Manolo’s career. The sales agent hired Paul to sell and detail shoe collections, which marked the commencement of Paul Mayer’s professional fashion design career. In detailing these collections under the parent brand Pancaldi and Walter Steiger and Manolo Blahnik, Paul chose color combinations, prints and fabrics for them, where his tenure lasted until 1980.

In 1979, Paul Mayer met Jeff Levy and Paul’s first shoe collection under his own name began in 1981. Their first label in 1981 was named Paul Jeffries and their first collection of heels, wedges and sandals was produced in Greece. They sold a lot of shoes at their first show, however there was a mishap in the manufacturing process and all the sandals were made with a strap too short, making the sandals unwearable. Oops. Then they moved manufacturing to Italy and the label became Paul Mayer in 1982. 

From 1982 to 1988, Paul designed couture footwear characterized by boots in cashmere, exotic alligator and ostrich skins, and even mink. The sky was the limit and they were crazy. How it has changed from the late 80’s to today: creativity today is rewarded whereas in the 1980s and before the status quo was stagnantly celebrated. Lanvin, Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Balmain all worn by Jackie O dominated the industry while emerging designers with independent labels had few opportunities. Creative at that time did not mean what it means today. Today, Paul Mayer Attitudes captures the mood, the feeling and the attitude of the woman of 2015. We could not be more thrilled to present Paul Mayer as our latest Mover and Shaker and we love him! Peachy Deegan interviewed Paul for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What are your first fashion memories?
Paul Mayer: 
Black and white movies from Brigette Bardot. I was too young to watch those but I did anyway at age 6 or 7. Those were not typical children’s movies. She was the first one that wore ballet flats and she was the one that brought ballet flats to the world. Brigette made them hip just as Audrey Hepburn made the kitten heel famous. “And God Created Women” I saw in the Gaumont Palace movie theater and it was a chic experience with reclining red velvet seats. No popcorn, but you could get Tonic or Gingerale from Schweppes or orange, apricot or peach juices from Pampam. This movie in particular stands out the most because she exposed what women ought to be able to be.

Do you have any of your mom’s suits or shoes today?

Tell us about your Brigitte Bardot encounters in person please.
She was on the pier at St. Tropez when I saw her with my dad and we also saw her at the Papagayo. She just began as a resident of St. Tropez.

And Madame Edith Piaf?
She was a friend of my father’s. Just before he died his memory of Piaf was so poignant. He used see her at concerts and dinner afterwards.

Tell us about your love affair with black patent and how it was derived.
I was in patent leather black shoes from age six. Patent leather can be shined up with hairspray and always look brand new. It brings a polished look to any outfit from jeans to ballgowns.

What did you like to wear growing up?
Bermuda shorts, blue blazer, white shirt and a Hermes tie was my look from birth to today.

How did you establish your elegant taste levels?
Being myself.

What do you know now about starting your own business that you wish you knew in 1981?
It’s all about money.

What are your competitive advantages in making the most comfortable, beautiful ballet flats in the world?
Women just love our consistency in fitting the sixteen year old to the ageless beauty.

What fashion designers in history do you admire most and why?
Christian Lacroix because he brought music, costume design, and theater to life. If you have the chance you should see his fashion shows on tape.

Where do you take inspiration from in new designs that come out?
The mood of the world, the mood of the country. What really looks good on an American woman. She’s different. You can always tell an American woman traveling. She’s either in Nikes or she’s in Paul Mayer.

How many new designs come out per season?
Our loyal customers are just waiting for exciting new color combinations and derivations from our classic to add to their existing brilliant collection. I want to make to make them happy and and not only meet but exceed their desires.

Which have been the most popular new designs of 2014 in terms of best sellers and what do you attribute that to?
White lug soles that seem weightless: they are not even an ounce. The look is urban chic goes to Palm Beach and cool. 

How do you balance between producing classic styles and being on-trend concurrently?
Adapting trend materials to our shoes achieves the proper balance in ballet flats. Our customer wants to be on trend, not trendy. If animal prints are in in ready-to-wear, we can have an animal print which would be on-trend, but not be trendy. Trendy would be an animal platform ubersexy stiletto that would be challenging to walk in.

How did you decide to have your factory in Spain?
Economics and not compromising quality and craftsmanship.

What should the world know about Jeff Levy overall and both personally and professionally?
I would not imagine my life without him; Jeff is a real rock who puts up with me which is not an easy task. Thirty-five years later...

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?

What are you proudest of and why?
Being able to have a working and personal relationship for thirty-five years. I would never have made it without Jeff.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I’d like to host my own cooking show and call it AM/PM; of course the PM has a double entendre.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
No formal awards, however I find it completely rewarding to see my shoes grace the feet of unsung women heroes behind great American corporations whether at the helm or married to it. The feet of understated celebrities I am proud make happy.

What one word best describes you and why?
Charismatic because of Hawaii. I recharge my batteries there.

What do you take your sense of identity from?
LaGuardia Airport because it represents the commencement of my regular Hawaiian rejeuvenation and it gets me to any destination that is ubercharging.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Oyster Bar at Grand Central in Manhattan.
Brasserie Lipp in Paris.
Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Burton in Manhattan.
Hermes in Paris.
Cartier in Hawaii.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
A mini me! For obvious reasons.

What is your favorite drink?
Dewars and water.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Sneezing my drink all over Ivana Trump at the Pierre Hotel for a black-tie cocktail party. Fortunately, this was not the first time I met her.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Joe Allen in Manhattan, best tartar in the world.
Train Bleue in Paris.
Azure in Hawaii-lobster cappuccino to-die-for and abalone.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And Paris? And Hawaii?
The Manhattan screenplay by Woody Allen.
Anything by Hemenway since he lived in Paris.
The History of the Royal Hawaiian-the second hotel open in Hawaii-it had barbed wire on it during WWII.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
President of the United States to moderate the shocking polarization here today; I would like to unite the people for the sake of our future.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And Paris? And Hawaii?
I’d like a cancer treatment center named after me in Manhattan.
I’d like a haven named after me for battered children who are abused in Paris.
In Hawaii, I’d like a working shelter named after me.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Playing hockey in Central Park in Manhattan, in Paris scoring nine for ASPTT when I was thirteen in team handball, and in Hawaii fishing for seven pound Ahi tuna.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And Paris? And Hawaii?
I like to be on my terrace and see helicopters, boats, and chartered flights all concurrently in Manhattan. In Paris, go to Harry’s Bar. In Hawaii, pilot Kepoika II.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
John McEnroe because watching him gave me inspiration.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Titanic the Broadway show in Manhattan, Musee D’Orsay in Paris, and Archives of Black and White Photos at the Honolulu Museum-Beach Boys, Surfers, WW I and II and Pearl Harbor.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I participate in 40 carrots which is an organization in Sarasota, Florida in conjunction with wine, women and shoes and in wealthy cities different chapters exist. It educated kids on having kids.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And Paris? And Hawaii?
Manhattan: Underrated: Sixth Avenue Food Trucks and Overrated: Tavern on the Green
Paris: Underrated: Real Champs Elysee and Overrated: Champs Elysee
Hawaii: Underrated: Cruise on a Catamaran at 10am where you can see dolphins, whales and turtles and Overrated: Sunset Booze Cruise on the same catamaran

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Peachy’s Picks because I like see what Peachy likes to eat, and of course the four columns on shoes I love.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love bowties, brisket from Texas, the airport shop in Portland, Oregon, Marie Antoinette in Fort Worth (the best gift store). 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through Peachy or my instagram-Paul Mayer Shoes.

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