Andrea Pfister was born in Pesaro, Italy in 1942. As a child, he moved to Switzerland where he was educated. Later, he returned to Italy to study art and languages. In 1961, he took a course in shoe design in Milan. 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.

Pfister showed his first collection of shoes in 1965, and in 1967 opened his first shoe shop.

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 more than any other shoes in the world. 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.

In 1994, he designed the stacked ball heel and starred upper and called it the "Trapeze Brode" recreating circus-like whimsy.

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. 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.

The Look

His shoes are colourful, stylish and amusing and have earned him a world-wide reputation. He has appliqued snakeskin penguins to the side of a boot, decorated the heel of a wedge mule with a 3-dimensional frolicking sea lion and wrapped a black suede boot with clasping hands. 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.

Who Wears It

Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna

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