Nicholas Kirkwood Feels For The Falling Model
[Style.com - Dec.08]
Nicholas Kirkwood better have a sturdy mantel. A bit of plywood shelving just won’t hold up under all the awards the English shoe designer has been racking up. There’s the AltaRoma Vogue Italia Who’s on Next award he took home last year, and then the Swarovski Emerging Talent Award for accessories he won at the latest British Fashion Awards, and the Footwear News Designer of the Year award that brought him to New York earlier this month. Given that it’s only been three years, Kirkwood may want to consider investing in a trophy room. For his fans, meanwhile, Kirkwood’s heels are trophies unto themselves, or perhaps something like a Santiago Calatrava skyscraper for the foot: daringly cantilevered, awe-inspiringly high, and balanced, seemingly, by will alone. That architectural sensibility has earned him a following among his fellow designers; he regularly collaborates with Rodarte and Alberta Ferretti for their runways, and this year he joined Jonathan Saunders in the revamp of Pollini. The most intriguing Kirkwood news, however, may be the fact that for Fall 2009, this sworn enemy of all things grounded is working on his first pair of flats. In the meantime, Kirkwood talks to Style.com about kitten heels, boudoir shoes, and how all good stories must come to an end.
Belstaff line__spring 08__[jakandjil.com]
I understand that your interest in designing shoes grew out of an experience making hats. That’s a bit of a switch, from head to toe.
It’s funny to look back on, because this was really only a few years ago and yet the whole landscape of shoe design was different. I was working with Philip Treacy, and women would come into the shop looking to finish an outfit. They’d bring in clothes, and they’d bring in their shoes. At the time, it was just this sea of kitten heels and really girly, pretty things. It seemed like there was a space for something else.
Had you studied shoe design in school?
I went back and took classes at Cordwainers. Not in design, though—just in shoemaking. I wanted to learn the craft.
Your shoes are quite technically innovative. Did you go to Cordwainers knowing that was going to be a focus, or did your interest in the technical come out of learning the craft?
I knew I wanted to understand the technical aspect, but for me it was always about finding a way to create shoes that didn’t have any excess. That’s the DNA of the brand. Even in my very first collection, which I never produced, there’s a focus on silhouette, on negative spaces and abstract shapes. Later, once I had the resources, I began to experiment with heel shapes and platforms. I don’t think people realize how expensive it is to try those things—you have to make the molds, and so on. I had to wait for that. But I knew what look I wanted to project.
Belstaff line__fall 08__[jakandjil.com]
You say you wanted to create shoes that didn’t have any excess, but your Spring ‘09 collection does include a fair amount of embellishment—crystal-paved heels, for example, and a pearl-embedded platform.
What I try to do is find ways to integrate those elements into the architecture of the shoe, rather than just laying on decoration. I mean, I don’t even like to use fastenings. The pearl idea is one that I’ve developed from Fall. I generally work that way, letting a story evolve through a few seasons until I feel like I’ve told it. For Fall, it was a single pearl tucked into the heel; this season, I was playing with the idea of a woman standing on a string of pearls.
It’s a sexy shoe.
Yeah, a real boudoir feeling. That shoe is also interesting because it takes this story I’ve been working on—the pearls—and combines it with a new story, which is my interest in origami. I like that idea of folding. Maybe next season, there won’t be any pearls, but the origami idea will be bigger. We’ll see.
Are there any “stories,” as you put it, that you feel like you’ve concluded with the Spring ‘09 collection?
I’ve been working on the idea of suspension for a while, like a bridge or a Barbara Hepworth sculpture. That’s been going since my third season; I think I may be moving on. But we’ll see—I never really know what I’m doing until I’m doing it. I’m not a designer who starts each season making, like, a mood board or something. Like, OK, this season I’m going to be into tribal, or Native American, or whatever. I do have a mood board, but there’s nothing on it.
That said, you must have a few instincts about the direction of your design. What are you sick of?
In general? I probably shouldn’t even answer that question. There are definitely shoes I’d like to never, ever see again. Any kind of sport shoe with a heel, for instance. I mean, ew. And I’m pretty much over the five-inch-high platform and girls tripping all over the place. Granted, I’ve been responsible for some of that.
At the Rodarte show, for example? As an aside, I’m not sure I will ever understand the fashion industry’s fascination with falling models.
Ah, it’s terrible. I have sympathy, I do. Next season’s shoes should be more manageable, I’m feeling ready for a more refined, lighter, more feminine look.
But no kitten heels.
Never. I’m working on a pair of flats, but for me, it’s either super-high or super-low. There’s no point messing with anything in between.
5 Questions for Nicholas Kirkwood
The world's sickest cobbler takes a few minutes to answer the essential five
4. Describe your aesthetic.
I think some of it is taken from architecture in a way that is not decorative in the classic sense, but lots of the shapes I've developed are based on how the shoe looks as a silhouette. Different layers within a shoe. Like one shoe clamped over the top of another one. Repeating a pattern like something slipped out...
Nicholas Kirkwood: To the Point
Wallflowers step aside, Nicholas Kirkwood's menacingly seductive heels are for legs that demand a bit of ogling. Never a kitsch frill or bow in sight, these angular kicks channel 80s power stilettos with jumped up sex appeal, rejecting ornamentation in favour of sculptural glamour. Sitting back on a sunny afternoon, London's most promising young shoe designer got talking with Indigo Clarke over a glass or two of champagne in his South London pad.
"Chicks dig it – and I can drink champagne whenever I want," says Nicholas Kirkwood with a laugh, "designing shoes and working for myself is good in that way." For a self-confessed 'leg' man, the job couldn't get much better. Ladies throughout Europe and the US are snapping up Kirkwood heels in a frenzy, with Kirkwood's own female friends proudly sporting his distinctive wares over the competition – one of them declaring at a recent gathering, "I made Nicholas courier a pair of his shoes to me at my last birthday party – I didn't want to wear the heels I had on, they were Galliano, but they just weren't right."
His characteristically dark and feminine aesthetic from the outset attracted the admiration of style icons and fashion industry professionals. From the inimitable songstress Grace Jones to Visionaire's Cecilia Dean, femmes of substance and style are avid fans. But it's not just, "Women with presence and intellect," (his desired audience) that are jumping on his bandwagon – luminary photographer and art director Jean Paul Goude is one of many to feature his brazenly sculptural heels in a recent fashion shoot, while the house of Chloe got in on the action with Kirkwood designing their Autumn 07 pre-collection.
Eying Kirkwood's last few collections, stacked haphazardly in his endearingly plush and disordered studio, it's easy to see what all the fuss is about. From vertiginous heels to platform wedges, his designs take direction from bygone eras, resurrecting noir mystique with a decidedly modern slant. With a fusion of unexpected materials including lizard, stingray, watersnake, python and buffalo horn alongside severe, architecturally inspired contours, it's evident that Kirkwood takes an artisinal approach to design, with meticulous attention to detailing and construction. "I wasn't always interested in shoe design – it could have been anything design related," says the 26 year-old of his career choice. "I've always been interested in design and form – most of my friends got into clothing design but I didn't want to pursue fashion."
Undertaking degrees at both St Martins and the prestigious Cordwainers
College, Kirkwood began his career in design working under renowned milliner Philip Treacy at 18 – doodling shoe designs on the side. "I worked with Philip for five years, creating shoes at home by hand in my spare time," Kirkwood explains. "I hand-made the majority of my first collection – I went in gung-ho, I had a vision to create shoes that were different and not at all commercial. They were designed to attract attention – not necessarily to be worn."
This first collection, released in 2005, was more object d'art than wearable (none of the shoes were for sale), but nonetheless catapulted him to cult stardom, winning him the coveted Conde Nast Footwear Emerging Talent award of 2005. Kirkwood followed with a wearable range of dramatically angular heels sans decoration– his trademark style, that debuted on the shelves of exclusive retailers Harrods, Browns Focus, Selfridges, Dover Street Market and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as on the pages of international style bibles British and Italian Vogue, The New York Times and I.D Magazine.
"My heels are like modern architecture as opposed to Baroque – there is no pointless decoration," says Kirkwood, downing champagne and sitting back in an antique gilded chair. "Decorating for the sake of decorating is a really old-fashioned notion, I'm more about form and function. Some of my heels look quite aggressive, but they are always feminine – not girly, you won't find any bows or diamonds."
Walking all over pretty and tossing frou frou and pastels aside, Kirkwood has reinvented the classic stiletto, platform and wedge for AW07 in dark, muted tones interspersed with lilac and metallic khaki. As always, his latest offerings – equal portions glamorous and formidable – are intended for the feet of, "Women with presence, with a bit of rock'n'roll," says Kirkwood. "I'd like to see yummy mummy's wearing them, but only if they're really yummy." With so many dishy heels on offer, has a gal any excuse to flaunt flats? "High heels should be worn all the time, no exceptions," Kirkwood begins with a boyish grin, "except at the beach maybe."
StartTV: The Nicholas Kirkwood Dilemma (vid)
Omelle - feature
[Miss Delite: Pair the HAZEL shoe with opaque black tights for a sophisticated addition to your fall ensemble.]