HC Exclusive: Interview with Designer and Artist Mark Schwartz

If you’re passionate about shoes and design, then you’ve probably heard his name or seen his dramatic artwork. For over thirty years, Mark Schwartz has been designing shoes and collaborating with some of fashion’s biggest powerhouses. From Gucci to Balenciaga, Chanel to Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs to Hermes—Mark Schwartz has done it all. But it isn’t just his breathtaking shoe designs that he’s known for. After suggestion from the famous Andy Warhol, Mark took on a new form of art— painting. And he’s been a creative artistic force ever since.

Read our interview with Mark Schwartz below!

 

HC: How did you begin your journey in the fashion and design industry?

MS: "I started by working with Roger Vivier for about seven years. He was my mentor. I began as an assistant, but eventually became the creative director for Roger Vivier International. Roger was the one to actually introduce me to Andy Warhol. The two had been friends and Roger had suggested that Andy visit me sometime—which he did! In 1984, I got a phone call from my secretary telling me that Andy Warhol was in the office and wanted to meet."

HC: Andy Warhol’s inspiration on you is evident through your art. What was it like working with him?

MS:  "He was very kind and very quiet. Andy wasn’t a man of a lot of words, but he was direct. When I met him, I was just starting to design shoes. And Andy loved shoes. We would sit together to talk about shoes and sketch them. After a few weeks of meetings like this, he suggested that I make my sketches like paintings—with watercolors and everything."

"I was totally intimidated, especially since Andy himself had done an entire series of paintings with shoes. But he insisted that I buy some paper and watercolor paint and practice, which I did. After a few weeks, I showed Andy my designs and we both laughed. But with months of practice and hard work, I improved my painting skills and fell in love with the craft."

HC: Has the painting process informed your shoe design process in any way?

MS: "Yes, of course. Sometimes when you do a rough sketch on paper, it doesn’t take on the life as it would when you paint it and attempt to make it more realistic. Painting, for me, brought out an artistic side in the shoe itself. Oftentimes, the final design would be inspired more by the painting process than the sketch of the actual shoe."

 

HC: Did you study design and art in school?

MS: "No, not at all. I attended Julliard School of Music for drums. I took a few courses at FIT, but I honestly learned everything from Vivier. I worked for him in his factories in Italy and France, where he would sit with me and show me how to design."

"I didn’t know the impact that he would have on me in my future—when you’re in your early twenties, you sometimes don’t realize these things. It really didn’t hit me until years later."

HC: It’s safe to say you’ve had a unique learning experience—one that you give back to aspiring designers. Tell us about the classes you offer.

MS: "For the past decade, I’ve offered an online shoe design class to students from all around the world. I also offer one-on-one in-person intensives, where I meet with current or prospective shoe designers and help and improve their skills. These courses usually last one or two weeks."

"With everything, I try to teach creative design. Over the past few years, a lot of content has been produced, but unfortunately, much of it looks the same. That needs to change."

HC: You’ve collaborated with some of fashion’s biggest brands, but you’ve also designed shoes for iconic pop-culture figures. The list includes Madonna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Angelina Jolie and so many more. Through all of these designs, do you happen to have a favorite shoe that you’ve made?

MS: "Yes, I do have a favorite design."

HC: What advice would you give students who are interested in entering the design industry?

MS: "Always be yourself, and always follow your heart, because originality today has become very rare and we need to bring it back."

 

Speed Round!

Favorite Food: Italian Food

Favorite Movie: Gone With The Wind

Favorite Song: Imagine

Interested in learning more about Mark? Check out his links below!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markschwartzshoedesigner/

Website: http://www.highheeledart.com