Starting at the age of 24, he has carved a distinctive style of innovative proportions, architectural lines and geometric prints. Kirkwood’s architectural and bold shoes continue to push the boundaries of footwear design.
Tanja Beljanski: How did your love affair with shoes begin?
Nicholas Kirkwood: It began when I was working in a hat shop after finishing my Fine Art foundation course at Central St. Martins. I would notice the clients’ shoes as they entered the shop and draw my own versions of them afterwards.
TB: You have started very young launching your signature brand in 2004 at the age of 24. What inspired you to create Nicholas Kirkwood?
NK: Being young and ambitious and having nothing to lose, with a compulsion to offer my creative statement to the world.
TB: What sets your shoes apart from other designers?
NK: The sculptural nature of my aesthetic, with a particular focus on heels. Blending both graphic and feminine elements in a harmonious way.
TB: Describe Nicholas Kirkwood in three words.
NK: Bold, architectural, unexpected.
TB: Where do you stand on the line between innovation and tradition in shoe design?
NK: My mind it is very clear: I use the best of both. If something can be accomplished meaningfully using innovative technology, I will take this route. But if the technology is not advanced enough to give me the desired outcome, I will work with highly skilled artisans to bring the design to life.
TB: Do you think knowledge of craftsmanship has given you an advantage in this industry?
NK: Shoe making is a highly hands-on and technical craft and most shoe designers are very technical by nature. I think that, perhaps, what differentiates me from some of my peers is that I actively try to explore the technical limits and find solutions to tricky technical challenges that others might surrender to sooner.
TB: Nicholas Kirkwood has been known for gravity-defying, architectural heels. Do you think your aesthetic has changed since launching your brand?
NK: Yes and no. Yes, because I’m always looking to progress in my work and explore new paths, but also no because my design DNA runs through every collection, in the way I imagine certain lines or the unexpected combinations I propose. There are aesthetic characteristics from my collections today which still eco elements of my earliest collections.
TB: Tell us about The Monstera family.
NK: Nature is a constant inspiration for me personally and in my work. I see plants in particular as Mother Nature’s sculptures. The Monstera is a plant that brings me joy and I wanted to share that joy.
TB: What are your thoughts on Level Shoes?
NK: Epic. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere else, it’s like a galaxy of shoes with different solar systems happening each with their own story.
TB: What is your favorite fashion trend of all time?
NK: I have two favorites which contrast each other and depend on when I am asked this question. Right now I’m into the very clean minimal lines of the 60s Mod woman. It exuded such optimism and was very much looking forward for its inspiration.
TB: When designing a new collection, where do you find inspiration?
NK: It’s nearly always a combination of: Nature, modern and contemporary Architecture, Art - particularly from the light and space movement. Even though less prevalent Film and Youth subcultures often find themselves in the seasonal mix too.
TB: How has coronavirus impacted upon your business?
NK: Retail has obviously had a seismic shock to the system, but I’ve been lucky enough to keep online running smoothly throughout. I think there will be some positive learnings that come out of this, one being way that we work as a team. I think a blended model of having a physical home for the brand and for the team to work from if necessary, but also the ability to work from anywhere would be ideal.
TB: What pushes you forward?
NK: The never-ending desire to discover what is around the next corner.
TB: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
NK: Over the last couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with new materials technologies to greatly reduce the shoes’ environmental impact, without effecting the luxurious look and quality of the product. For spring summer 2021 I have out all this work into action and I’m happy to say that 80% of the collection was made using these environmentally conscious materials.