Known for the architectonic quality of his designs and his wondrous use of color, Nicholas Kirkwood has wowed the fashion world since launching his namesake label in 2005. Britain’s shoe wunderkind phoned The Thread while en route to London from New York’s JFK airport to discuss paving his own path to success.
And the Winner Is… Kirkwood kicked off the new year by snagging the prestigious BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund Award and presenting his spring 2013 collection on the heads of models
THE THREAD: Since winning the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund award in January, which mentor has been the most influential in advancing your business?
NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD: We have two mentors. One has a financial background and the other one is Kurt Geiger, who I’ve actually already been working with. The advice we’ve received on brand building and wholesale distribution from a retail stance has been really helpful, particularly because I’m growing my own retail business.
Mad Hatter: Kirkwood worked for the Royal family’s go-to milliner, Philip Treacy, for five years and embraced his architectural aesthetic
THE THREAD: Philip Treacy is constantly challenging the perception of what a hat should be and the role it should play in a woman’s dressing. Do you feel some of his rebellious spirit rubbed off on you in terms of your approach to shoe design?
KIRKWOOD: Philip has certainly served as inspiration. I was surrounded by his creations every day. He gave me my first introduction to the world of accessories, and that was definitely a turning point for me in terms of the direction I wanted to take my career. His studio is like a creative playground. Working with him allowed me to think about shoes in a different way, maybe in a more sculptural way, because at the time I had a limited art background. The sculptural element really came natural to me.
Tulle Jewel: Nicholas Kirkwood Ruffle Trim Pump with dramatic goldtone stiletto heel
THE THREAD: Manolo Blahnik has served as an inspiration for you too. If you ever had a chance to interview him, what one question would you have to ask?
KIRKWOOD: Wow, that’s quite a question. I suppose I’d ask him at what point did he feel he was really at the top of his game, and what did that feel like?
British Besties ♥ NK: Model Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora—English ‘it’ girls—are both known to rock Kirkwood designs for work and play. This past May, Rita wore a custom-made pair of pumps by Kirkwood to the MET gala
THE THREAD: How does the city of London and its fashion influencers inspire your creative point of view?
KIRKWOOD: London is a creatively open city. It’s got great schools like Central Saint Martins that have a longstanding history of producing some of the greatest artists and fashion inventors. Naturally there’s a certain energy to London, which makes it a very inspiring city to live and work in. There’s an independence in London’s culture which really motivates people to try something new, and you can see that in everything from music to art to fashion.
THE THREAD: You created a very edgy yet timeless pump to complement the dress that singer Rita Ora wore to this year’s MET gala, PUNK: Chaos to Couture. Can you tell us a little more about the design?
KIRKWOOD: The design is based on a classic pump shape. Rita had a dress made up by Thakoon, which had chains running through it and gave the fabric a metal element. I wanted the shoe to look as though someone splashed or kicked a load of studs on the front of the shoe and they just randomly degraded out.
Style Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence promotes her upcoming movie X-Men: Days of Future Past at Comic-Con in San Diego, donning a bandage dress from Alexander McQueen Resort 2014 and sleek pointy-toe Lace Pumps by Nicholas Kirkwood
THE THREAD: You’re not short on the number of celebrity fans or fashion design awards: Footwear News Emerging Talent Vivian Infantino award in 2006, AltaRoma/Vogue Italia award for accessories design in 2007, British Fashion Awards Swarovski Emerging Talent in 2008. With so many admirers and accolades, what is the best compliment you’ve ever received about one of your shoe designs?
KIRKWOOD: Funny enough, [the rapper] Rick Ross mentioned me in a his song ["All I Really Want": “Baby girl, my money good, who turned her on to Nicholas Kirkwood.”] and that was definitely a compliment.
Walk This Way: Kirkwood has designed the runway shoes for New York-based design duo SUNO for the past three seasons. For fall ’13, his clever use of color on these ‘80s inspired Chelsea-print ankle boots feels so right now
THE THREAD: Do you feel shoes are the index of a personal status?
KIRKWOOD: It’s a combination of things. Certainly before the shoe years, it was about the “it” bag. Handbags were so prominent for so long. Maybe just in the last 8 to 10 years, have shoes become increasingly more of a focus, even from a designer’s point of view for their runway shows. Shoes maybe were viewed more of just an accessory to show off the clothing, and now they really have become almost an item within themselves. Almost every year, every season, designers are trying to outdo each other with their show shoes. It was probably about three years ago or so that shoes were getting crazier and higher.
Fall Fabulous: Slip into chic comfort wearing the Nicholas Kirkwood Stretch Suede Bootie
THE THREAD: Your fall/winter 2013 collection runs the gamut of shape, color and material. Would you say you have a hero shoe in this latest offering?
KIRKWOOD: I really wouldn’t say there’s a particular shoe. The hero is perhaps more in the fabrication. Also, I started using a new kind of hardware, right on top of the shoe in a way that resembles a buckle. And for spring 2013, I did a zigzag print in suede to explore how to use an exact pattern without printing it. I’m always trying new things that interest me.
Ready to answer London’s call? Ring in fall with Nicholas Kirkwood.
Portrait courtesy of Nicholas Kirkwood
[Photo Credit: Vogue.com, Bridgetteraes.com, Trend911.com, Nicholaskirkwood.com, Nellalouvella.blogspot.com]