It must be a bit daunting—being touted as the next Louboutin at the age of 30. But Nicholas Kirkwood, in Toronto for the “God Save the Queen” event at The Room at the Bay, seems thoroughly unruffled by the hype. He’s sweet and a bit shy—clearly a designer first, showman second.
A brief biography: Born in Germany, where his father was stationed with the army, Kirkwood studied at Central Saint Martins in London before working at Philip Treacy’s shop for five years. He then studied for a year at the prestigious Cordwainers Company (“Promoting the study, practise, interpretation and preservation of historical shoemaking”), before launching his own line in 2005.
Since then, he’s won awards left and right and collaborated with some of the brightest names in the business, including Jonathan Saunders who he recently succeeded as creative director at Pollini. Another coup? Last season, Kirkwood replaced Louboutin as the shoe designer for Rodarte’s runway shows.
What is it that you love about shoes?
“I’ve always loved the idea of the craft of shoes, the artisanal qualities. I’m interested in product design—how the components of fashion fit together. I also love that shoes need to be functional. There’s a challenge in that. I mean, you need to be able to walk in them too, right?”
You’ve recently created a shoe collection featuring the artist Keith Haring’s prints. How did that come about?
“A few seasons ago, I watched a documentary on Keith Haring, and I was amazed at how much of his work I hadn’t seen. Many of us are familiar with some of his pieces— all the graffiti-influenced work—but I was in awe at how prolific he was. I thought the shapes would be so amazing translated into shoes.”
Is it true that you’re starting a men’s line?
“Yes. It’s in the works now, and I’m hoping we can launch next year. I’m also interested in creating a handbag line. It’s only a question of when it will happen—whether it will be two seasons from now, or three or four.”
What about designing clothing? Does that intrigue you at all?
“To be honest, I don’t think I’d be able to do it convincingly. I’d need to train to be an expert in that realm, otherwise I don’t think I’d get a very good reaction. More savvy, faceless brands can do that and get away with it. I’d need to feel like I really knew what I was doing, in order for it to be believable.”
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