Interview With: Nicholas Kirkwood
Did you always know you wanted to be a shoe designer?
I studied fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and then went to intern for the milliner Philip Treacy. When I worked in the shop, ladies would come in with complete outfits looking for a hat to match and I’d help them. It was around 2000 and there was some really incredible ready-to-wear, such as Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. These designers were really pushing the boundaries, but other than Manolo Blahnik, I noticed there weren’t any groundbreaking shoe designers and realised that’s what I wanted to do.
"I hate seeing girls struggling along the street in high heels, trying to make it to the front door of the nightclub. It takes practice to look elegant in high heels, but it’s worth it."
How did you launch your brand?
After completing a making course at Cordwainers College, I took my first collection to Paris. I didn’t have a factory at that point and had made every shoe completely by hand. I didn’t sell a single pair (the shoes were not easy to wear), but the collection got a lot of press attention. I was inspired by sculptors such as Anish Kapoor and there was a lot of bright colour on printed leather. I think it would sell if it had been made now but things were more conservative then.
How would you describe the DNA of your brand?
I really pushed the whole idea of the shoe boot before it became mainstream, and part of my brand DNA is that I cut a shoe very high on the foot. I like to mix organic lines with very architectural shapes. I find that design becomes interesting when two opposing aesthetics come together.
Is there anyone you’d love to see in your shoes?
I’d love to do shoes for Cate Blanchett. She’s got a really interesting, modern look. She has so much femininity but so much strength at the same time. It’s the balance I always try to strike.
What are the new trends happening in shoe design?
A couple of years ago things were getting more and more exaggerated, so much height. It almost got to the point where the shoes were unwearable, with models constantly falling over on the catwalk. Now, shoes are coming down in height: we’re seeing pointy designs with no platform. Interestingly, shapes are sleeker, but it’s the fabric and material that’s becoming more adventurous.
How do you make a high shoe comfortable?
I think it’s about knowing your customer. Some shoes are literally cab-to-red-carpet affairs. There are things I do to make the shoe more comfortable though, I’m not a torturer! I add a wider fit to the super high heels - this makes sense because if there’s added pressure on the foot it naturally wants to spread.
How do you feel about designing men’s shoes?
The way I approach it is that I’m designing shoes for the boyfriend of my female customer. I don’t want to design show-off shoes for men, I want them to be subtle and I don’t want to stray too far from tradition.
What are your pet hates when it comes to shoes?
I hate seeing girls struggling along the street in high heels, trying to make it to the front door of the nightclub. Don’t just wear sneakers all day and then put on heels once a week and expect to look confident. It takes practice to look elegant in high heels, but it’s worth it.