Evolution can be defined as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. When you think about style in that context, we are in a time which we have never seen before in the fashion industry.
Menswear is at a state where streetwear has taken the place of formality. For iconic American staples such as Paul Stuart, long known for quality craftsmanship and tailored clothing, evolving with the times is more critical than ever. Paul Stuart style is meant to evolve classics through revamped proportions and silhouettes.
Last August, Paul Stuart appointed Javier Suarez as the first ever Creative Director for men’s shoes and belts. Before taking his position at Paul Stuart, Javier spent time at Bally and Cole Haan before working at Salvatore Ferragamo for 27 years, where he launched and grew the brand into the famously iconic luxury staple that it is today.
Below we go in-depth with Javier discussing his experience, vision, and rare magic touch on shoemaking that places value and quality over quantity – which is precisely what Paul Stuart’s latest footwear line is doing.
HFL: Who is Javier Suarez?
Javier: I think I’m a lucky guy who found a passion that turned into a career. I was always into fashion and style, I stuck with it, and here we are.
HFL: How did you get started in the menswear industry
Javier: I began my career by coincidence. I got a summer job at a very upscale fashion store in New York City, selling high-end shoes and leather accessories. I found a place for myself, and I said this is something you can do.
HFL: What was it about shoes that attracted you to the industry?
Javier: My dad had this collection of shoes from England I admired and was really into. This led me to enjoy all aspects of the shoe industry from the smell of the leather to the business side of it, and I genuinely believe accessories can make a difference in the way a guy looks.
HFL: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to make a career in the menswear industry or shoe business, what would it be?
Javier: Find something that you’re passionate about and then it all becomes easy. Cultivate that interest whether it be on the product side or the business side and when you find it, it will come easily to you.
HFL: How did working at the store level help develop prepare you for where you are today?
Javier: I worked my way up through the store enabling me to learn all facets of the business literally from the ground up. I also got lucky in that I was able to go to Bally at the time when they were one of the biggest brands in the world. With them being based in Switzerland, I learned a lot from the unique way they go about manufacturing because of how expensive that country can be.
HFL: What is the most significant accomplishment of your career thus far?
Javier: Building the business at Salvatore Ferragamo, because when I got there, it was a women’s shoe brand. They wanted to get into the men’s shoe business and reached out to me because I had a name in the industry and had already worked at Bally and Cole Haan. It was a challenge. A start-up with the backing of a great company and with my knowledge of the product itself, it was a perfect match.
HFL: What is it that attracted you to the position with Paul Stuart?
Javier: It’s such an iconic American brand. It has a lot going for it, and in this day and age of pop up brands, I think Paul Stuart can really be a force into the future. I enjoy the building of something that has such a strong core from its brand quality and history.
HFL: Paul Stuart is known more for its suiting and apparel offering. How do you see shoes contributing to the growth of the business?
Javier: Customers are loyal to brands like Paul Stuart. The idea is that I’m a Paul Stuart customer and I would have clothing for my daytime to my evening to my work to my weekend all in one place. Everything has to compliment everything.
HFL: What are the inspirations behind each of the A/W 18 Shoe collections?
Javier: Shoes are a key ingredient to the way someone dresses. You can change the way you look just by changing your shoes. We’re trying to create an attitude for guys to dress up. You have to have an attitude without turning people off. My inspiration for these collections is appealing to the next consumer who is the Paul Stuart guy of the future.
You can spend $150 on a pair of shoes or $1,000 on a pair of shoes. You still want them to have certain intrinsic values and be as real as possible. That is why I like to reach out to artisans in Italy who really take pride in their craftsmanship to develop our shoes. I’m a firm believer in price-value relationships, knowing it’s about what you’re getting for that price.
For example, the Urban Calvary is for those that live Urban Cities. While you don’t ride a horse like a typical cavalryman, you’re out there grinding all day, and I try to create identities with the people and how they feel.
HFL: Does the access to those artisans come from your personal relationships throughout your career?
Javier: Yes over the years I’ve gotten to know several of them. They’re usually small factories who are subcontracted by big brands for their incredible wealth of knowledge and product. They add the quality and personal touch to those brands.
HFL: Does that concept of craftsmanship affect the shift in attitude you mentioned earlier?
Javier: Yes, because the product matters. If they love it, they will come back to you. That is a way of differentiating Paul Stuart.
HFL: What is your favorite shoe within the collections?
Javier: Urban Calvary Boot. We put a Zipper on the inside to make it more functional.
HFL: What is your personal style aesthetic?
Javier: Easy, casual, but elegant. I like the softness and try to stay away from stiff things. You have to feel comfortable in your second skin which is your clothing, which is your shoes. In dress wear, softness is important to me.
HFL: What style tips do you have for men as we transition into fall?
Javier: Layering and bring things out little by little. Accessories are the key – scarves, vests, and obviously shoes.
HFL: Looking forward into 2019 what would you define as a successful year for Paul Stuart under your leadership?
Javier: Everything is measured in results, but the biggest success is that we are expanding our distribution. We will be in Neiman Marcus in the Spring which would help us expand into a new consumer. Getting the millennials into pieces.
HFL: Finish this sentence. Style is….
Javier: Putting your own personality in fashion. Mixing things to express who you are.
Written by: @its_what_ev