Nicholas Kirkwood On His Love of a Good Collaboration
Be it latex stilettos, digi-floral satin tie-ups, carved lacquered wood wedges or aluminum pop art the boy is on fire. In addition to captaining his own line, Nicholas Kirkwood stepped up as creative director last year for Pollini. Since then, he’s launched the Forward Designer Project which, this season alone, has him collaborating with Louise Gray and Manish Arora, making Egyptian inspired mesh booties for Preen, sherbert velvet lace-ups for Michael van der Ham and carnivale-esque sandals at Meadham Kirchhoff. We caught up with the design dynamo at his showroom in Paris to make sure he’s not harboring a mini army of creative clones.
ELLE: You’re something of a collaboration junkie aren’t you?
NK: Once I got into it, I felt like I’d be missing out. When I first started with Polini I said I’d do one show, but then now I’m doing 11 or 12!
ELLE: There’s a freedom in that isn’t there?
NK: I get to play outside of my own box. Working with Rodarte doing melted candle wax heels — I LOVE doing that, but I’d never do that with my own collection. My collection’s more about silhouette and line and not as playful in that way, but I love to do that so it’s a great excuse for me.
ELLE: How did those light up Rodarte candle heels come about?
NK: They had candles everywhere and their collection was so ethereal, you know, ghostly in a way. We thought how are we going to do this, put little batteries in them? And I thought “Do I want shoes with on/off switches?” We ended up getting 200 lighters, the ones with little LED torches and a button and broke them apart.
ELLE: Bet that was a head-scratcher for the factories?
NK: We had to just drill into the heel ourselves and push them in. Lucky for us it was translucent enough to be seen.
ELLE: Your shoes are feats of engineering, but what I love most is the exploration of materials, like you did with Peter Pilotto this season.
NK: That was lacquered aluminum, laser cut and sprayed. We cover the outsided and shaved them to size. Not difficult, but it is expensive. Far more than the shoe costs to make. So we’ll end up doing a mold in plastic, but it’ll look just the same.
ELLE: There’s a signature to your own line, this recurring ‘D’ shape.
NK: It’s the only one I’ve still done since my very first season in 2005, but in different constructions. For me it’s kind of my classic shoe in a way.
ELLE: I noticed a few kitten heels in the mix, are you venturing into new territory?
NK: This season we pushed on with simple slingbacks which aren’t radically changing anything, but I need to also be able to mature as a brand and offer normal shoes as well. Not just try to make everything look-at-me kind of shoes. My customer that buys that now also just wants something they can put on and go to the shops with. So it’s a bit more concentration this season. It’s going to be something that takes two or three seasons to try and get right and for people to understand that I can do that, too. by Sabrina Morrison