Photo: Marc Pritchard
A MEETING WITH NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD
By Alice Butterlin
Nicholas Kirkwood first rose to prominence in 2005, when he launched his eponymous footwear brand after graduating from Central Saint Martins and spending several years under the wing of fashion’s Mad Hatter, Philip Treacy. Towering heels and bottomless creativity are the British shoemaker’s two watchwords, having cut his teeth during the golden age of the red carpet and its unwritten high heels rule. Today, Nicholas Kirkwood devotes his time to the future of his brand, after launching several successful collaborations and a promising menswear line.
You launched your eponymous brand in 2005, how have you seen women’s shoe style evolve through the years? What are your thoughts on the trend of the sneaker and flat shoe today? Is there still room for a good stiletto?
Shoe trends have evolved a lot since I launched my first collection in 2005, which is great for me as a designer. Trends for me don’t mean a paradigm shift in my designs but more that I can continue to interpret my aesthetic in different ways, and by staying true to it, I can hopefully challenge my woman to rethink hers somewhat. It was five years before I added a flat in my collection (in spring/summer 2010) and then I added mid-heels starting with my geometric “prism heel”, which has been in perennial demand. I like designing shoes on different heel heights and creating something standout with artistic or architecturally influenced detailing. What is great about today’s shoe market is the diversity of choice. There are amazing sneakers out there from the old masters like Nike – my personal favorites – to more burgeoning brands. There are also great mid heels – like my Mira mule bootie from my AW18 collection, which my team tells me are so easy to wear as well as looking very chic and effortless. There is always room for a heel and a reason to wear them. Stilettos will never die!
For your Autumn/Winter 2018 collection you’ve turned to 90s grunge and its iconic bands like Sonic Youth and The Smashing Pumpkins. What inspires you in that era style-wise? Are you still a fan of music today and does it inspire you in your work?
I came of age listening to grunge and alternative rock music and have always really admired the style of the movement’s heroines like Kim Gordon, Courtney Love and D’arcy Wretzky from The Smashing Pumpkins. This movement and their style really inspired my AW18 collection, I also looked at women like Alison Mosshart from The Kills who are a modern-day embodiment of this era and whose style fuses grunge with a more irreverent femininity. I still listen to this music genre and always will. Music is an integral part of my design process and how I begin each season. I put a Spotify playlist together, often listening to the same song multiple times, and then sit down and start to draw.
You’ve previously designed footwear for many designers like Peter Pilotto, Erdem, Rodarte and more. What is your creative process while designing for others? Which designers would you love to work with in the future?
I’m really enjoying the process of collaborative design, when you essentially blend your visual signatures with the codes of another brand and come up with something that reflects both. I loved designing handbags for Bulgari and would like to do something more along those lines. I’m also thinking on design ideas beyond fashion accessories, into furniture and objects. At the moment, I’m in my factory in Italy creating really stand out shoes for our first ever London Fashion Week catwalk show in September 2018, and certainly the collaborative work I did with ready-to-wear designers earlier in my career has helped me build the foundation for my own show.
You’ve introduced a sustainable capsule of your signature Beya mules on Net-A-Porter. What does mindful design mean to you?
For a long time now, the innovation that’s excited me in fabrications and development techniques has all come from sustainable and environmentally conscious suppliers. It’s important to me to consider both the aesthetics of what I create each season and how it is created. I am constantly looking to work with suppliers who create a beautiful product with as minimal environmental impact as possible.
Your designs encourage women to make a statement. Is it important for you to make women feel a certain sense of empowerment?
Thinking about “The Nicholas Kirkwood woman” is really important to me when I’m designing each collection. I have certain muses on my mood boards seasonally, some of them like Yasmin Sewell, Veronika Heilbrunner and Yasmina Dexter are ubiquitous. I’m drawn to their independent spirit and irreverent femininity. I use these women to inspire me as I translate my ideas for the collections into the actual shoes.