Tucked away under the shady colonnades of the Palais Royal gardens, in the centre of Paris, is a little black jewel box of a shop to which fashion editors flock. They come to salivate over sexy spike-heeled shoes perched like prizes on black cushioned plinths. The designer of these prized objects is Pierre Hardy, who not only produces his own range of shoes but is also the genius behind this season's Lego shoe from Balenciaga as well as the shoes and fine jewellery pieces seen at Hermes. For a man who designs seriously dark and edgy footwear, Hardy is a remarkably warm, relaxed and chirpy person. Lithe, bespectacled and with the aquiline nose and strong brow of Corsican heritage (on his mother's side), he is sitting on what amounts to his office - a giant black velvet sofa. Every other surface in his vast Parisian studio cum showroom is smothered in tempting objects of feminine desire: the spring/summer 2008 collection. Hardy will be in Hong Kong this week to promote his collection at On Pedder, the exclusive retailer of his shoes in the city. This will be the third time Hardy, a native of the French capital, has visited Hong Kong, a destination that affords him great pleasure. '[Parisians] are so rude, but it is very French,' he admits reluctantly. 'Coming from Europe, it's very pleasant in Hong Kong, and it is a beautiful city - the architecture is amazing.' Not that Hardy will have much time to absorb the delights of the city; his two-day trip will be jam-packed with commitments, centred around On Pedder. He has collaborated with the Wheelock House store on a special window display that 'plays on contorted perspectives' and will be on view to the public for about two weeks. On the wall behind the sofa is a previous product of his creative mind: a roughly drawn cube and sphere on a black background that reflects the current season. 'It is geometric, but more sensual,' he explains as he picks up some shoes that will be on sale in Hong Kong. Trained in fine art and moonlighting one day a week as a lecturer in creative methodology in applied arts (which, since you ask, means how to identify, nourish, develop and realise a concept) at the Ecole Superieure des Arts Appliques, Hardy has a talent for the abstract. While the teaching is a relaxing and stimulating distraction from daily deadlines, sculpture and abstract minimalism are his first loves, and these influences are clearly evident in his work. He is particularly drawn to the work of New Yorker Robert Longo, the American minimalists and the German-based British sculptor Tony Cragg, and these loves find expression in his shoes. If you view them in profile, their graphic shapes create abstract patterns, while the heels and detail offer a sculptural quality. One half of the autumn collection 'is very geometric: all about angles, lines, sharp edges, cuts, boxy square-cut toes and lattice patterns - like this', he explains, picking up blunt-toed ankle boots and gold lattice-patterned wedges. The other half has a sinewy, sculpted second-skin quality. 'It is based on the curve; much more sensual, more anatomical,' like the lip-cut openings on the toes of his black and gold slingbacks. The look is erogenous. 'Exactly, like a window, like the decollete of a dress,' he enthuses. The sculptural abstract quality that inspires his ideas reveals his non-traditional route into fashion. 'I didn't love fashion. I don't have this background of haute couture with flowers, lace, mousseline and all these kind of things, which you learn in fashion studies. I was a student in the 1980s, when art was abstract; music was coldwave and the beginning of techno; and there were Laurie Anderson happenings. It is those things that were around me, that made me.' Designing shoes started as a hobby, with Hardy doodling designs in the margins of his schoolbook as a 14-year-old. The idea he could actually choose shoe design as a vocation did not occur to him until he found a job as a student with a shoe designer. At college he painted in acrylics and watercolours and drew, but he says a lack of confidence at that age meant he chose shoe design above the life of an artist or a sculptor. Most graduates launch themselves into the fashion world while they are still wet behind the ears but Hardy, who is now 50, left it a very long time before he launched his own label. The reason he waited until 1999, he says teasingly, is 'because there are so many more things to do before doing [your own collection of] shoes.' But shoe design has long influenced his life choices. His early career was spent at Christian Dior, before Jean-Louis Dumas, the Hermes chairman responsible for recruiting Jean Paul Gaultier and mysterious avant-garde Belgian designer Martin Margiela, approached him in 1990. Hardy, like Margiela, a minimalist with an extravagant edge, brought a powerful coherence, disciplined rigour and sly wit to Hermes' designs. Hardy enjoys the unique creative environment and admits, 'When Jean-Louis asked me to do it, I thought for 24 hours before accepting - but that was only because I was too embarrassed to shout 'Yes' on the spot.' He says he has found it very comfortable working with both Margiela and Gaultier. 'They are very easy, both of them, but very different. Margiela was very precise in what he wanted while with Jean Paul it is quite different; I have to anticipate what he wants [production schedules mean the shoes are designed before the clothes] but that is not a problem because I am on his wavelength. He's very easy, very communicative and he shares the enthusiasm.' In 2002, Hardy started designing fine jewellery for Hermes, another bold move for the brand. His fine-arts approach means he has brought a fresh eye to the pieces. The designs are ultra modern but borrow from the heritage of the house; a rose gold cuff shaped like a stirrup, for instance, or a long gold necklace with bridle. The look is cool, strong and alluring. Hardy is obviously not a man prone to stress; to this great workload he adds the responsibility for the dynamic footwear that leaves editors swooning at Balenciaga. 'It is another kind of job. [Balenciaga designer] Nicolas [Ghesquiere] and I have been very good friends for a long time. We met in 1992, when he was 22 and working at Gaultier. The creative process is very different as he is someone who knows exactly what he needs and wants.' He describes their relationship as being 'like two tennis partners batting the ball around'. Hardy says he has little trouble keeping the three collections separate. 'It's like playing different parts in a play or a movie. It obliges me to think of things differently each time and to look at them from a different angle. Other-wise I would get bored. 'Hermes is classic and you look at how you can make it fashionable - a mix between respect and shaking it up,' he says. 'Balenciaga is much more about projection, pushing forward, going higher, faster stronger, whereas Pierre Hardy is a young brand and the issue each season is to define the identity.' Given he designs shoes, jewellery and bags (Hardy launched his own bag collection last year), would he consider designing clothes? 'No. The relation with the body is very different. Accessories look like objects you can separate from the body and can stand by themselves. I am confident with them. Clothes exist only to be worn and I do not have this knowledge. As it is, bags and shoes are different: a bag you attach, shoes you put on and have to fit.' Rather distractingly, on the ceiling high above Hardy's head, there is a fine Impressionist painting - buyers apparently have a habit of walking in and looking up rather than down at the tables of shoes, Hardy jokes. The studio-showroom, a listed building near the Canal Saint-Martin, was built between 1850 and 1870 by Barbe Dienne, who owned the foundry in which Auguste Rodin cast his bronze sculptures. The beautiful white stucco walls of the reception room and the ceiling painting, by the little-known Dambureer, remain intact. Hardy lived here for 10 years but when he outgrew the space he realised either he or the showroom had to move. So he went to live in the Marais, a traditionally bourgeois Parisian district. He tried living in the countryside once, in a beautiful 18th-century house with a river and tennis court, near Auxerre, in Burgundy, but it was too quiet and he got bored. 'In Paris there is shopping, galleries ... it's my place.' He loves visiting New York and considered moving there at one time. 'New York has a different scale, a different energy to Paris and amazing architecture. I go every month and each time say, 'Wow!'' Despite having been trained as an artist, Hardy briefly contemplated a career as a dancer. He was a member of a contemporary dance company but, when he was 23, he realised he had to make a decision. 'If I was to have a future in dance it would be as a choreographer, but I was not sure I could base my future on keeping my physique in top condition. I knew the risks and I did not want to spend the rest of my life in the daily torture of practising in the dance studio.' He winces at the memory. 'I thought I had too much inside me to express just in dance alone.' However, he is still lithe and energetic; running, going to the gym, skiing when he can find the time off. His work schedule, however, doesn't give him much freedom. It is hard to tell whether he is being sceptical or just plain modest when told all this hard work has been worth it and his shoes have become cult items. His denials are invalidated by the facts: his designs have been worn by discerning celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, Kate Moss and Chloe Sevigny. The Pierre Hardy brand is available in 31 countries but, aside from his flagship shop in the Palais Royal, his only personal retail space is in Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market concept store in London. However, he plans to open in New York and maybe Moscow. Although a number of fashion houses are jumping on the accessories bandwagon, Hardy seems unperturbed by the competition. 'I think the only way for people like me is to be original and quite exclusive. Despite the invasion of fashion accessories there is another kind of customer who is reaching for exclusivity and individuality,' he says. 'For the first five years I was trying to make the identity as strong as possible. Now it's time for me to take the next step.' I think the pun was intended.