Designed to be ‘strong and empowering’, London’s most promising young shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s sculptural heels have lately been doing what they do best – upstaging everything from the ankle up. Indigo Clarke
Demanding attention on the catwalks of Paris, London, New York and Milan, London’s emerging footwear aficionado, Nicholas Kirkwood, has in one season alone contributed to the sartorial theatrics of Gareth Pugh and Basso&Brooke, as well as adding a certain je ne sais quoi to the collections of Doo.Ri, Tommy Hilfiger, Alberta Ferreti and Philip Lim with his characteristically dark, and mercilessly high, heels. In continual demand to complete outfits, both on and off the catwalk, Kirkwood has been creating show shoes around the clock, as well as almost single-handedly designing and overseeing production for his eponymous label.
Admitting he rarely finds time to sleep amid his hectic schedule, though somehow always finding time for a glass of champagne, Kirkwood is a self-confessed glutton for punishment – this month taking on yet another high-profile project. “I just started a collaboration with Pollini – working as the new Accessories Director,” the 28 year old explains modestly of his involvement with the Italian luxury label. “Jonathan Saunders has taken over as Ready to Wear Director. It’s a whole brand repositioning, and it will be launching from September in Milan. It’s exciting – Jonathan and I are both young and have strong aesthetics,” he continues. “We’re going to get a lot of creative freedom to take the label in a new direction.”
Taking out the prestigious Conde Nast Footwear Emerging Talent award of 2005, with a dramatic debut collection that was more object d’art than wearable (none of the shoes were for sale), Kirkwood reached instant cult status as style icons and critics, from inimitable songstress Grace Jones to Visionaire’s Cecilia Dean and luminary photographer and art director Jean Paul Goude, thrust his designs into the spotlight. Fusing unexpected materials alongside architecturally inspired contours, Kirkwood has become known for rejecting superfluous ornamentation in favour of meticulous detailing and construction. “My heels are like modern architecture as opposed to Baroque – there is no pointless decoration,” says Kirkwood. “From the beginning I’ve aimed to create shoes that are strong and empowering – real fashion items. Cutesy and prim, frills and bows, is just not happening,” he insists. “The women buying my shoes are definitely very head sure, they love heels that are, I hate to say it, a little bit fierce.”
For Spring/Summer 09, Kirkwood is temporarily parting ways with his penchant for monochrome, creating a collection in vibrant jewel tones, “I’ve done so much black,” he says, “now I want to explore quite intense, saturated colours.” Following this newfound appreciation of colour, will Kirkwood be reconsidering his stance on the enemy – kitschy bows and frills? “There’s always a way to do a bow and make it unusual or interesting – it’s the cutesiness I hate, not necessarily the ornamentation…” Kirkwood considers with a smile, before adding quickly and decisively, “but we won’t be seeing any in this collection, or in the near future.”