Nicholas Kirkwood is a great man to have on any fashionista’s speed dial, so when the elaborate shoe designer arrived back in Dubai for the second time this year we hit him up to discuss all things footwear.
With four new standalone stores opened in London, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and New York, a growing menswear range and yet another wonderfully creative shoe collection under his soles we can’t seem to get enough of Nicholas Kirkwood and it seems neither can you.
On top of that, the 33-year-old designer has recently launched an exclusive range of shoes designed with the ladies of the Middle East in mind. Available exclusively at Level Shoe district, The Dubai Mall, where we went along to find out exactly what inspired Nicholas when designing the new wonderful range.
What was it about the women of the UAE that inspired you to design a range of shoes solely for Dubai?
Considering that Level Shoe District is massive shoe hall I wanted to design something that stood out, which comes easily to me. As you know, I’m not one to go understated. I wanted something bold and something that would stand out as a world exclusive.
One of the amazing shoes designed for Level Shoe District
What do you think of Dubai and the UAE?
Everyone is positive here. There’s a great atmosphere. It’s also the perfect place for wearing fabulous shoes. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing but the shoes always have a real edge.
What is your opinion on the way that people dress here?
The ladies in the UAE make such a huge effort which is refreshing for me coming from London, where everyone has that just rolled out of bed look.
What have you got planned during your stay in Dubai?
I’ve only ever spent about two or three days here, either in a hotel or at Level Shoe District so this time I’m really hoping to get out and about. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to drive out to the desert and ride a camel.
Three of the skyscraping heels in Kirkwood’s A/W13 collection
Luxury good company LVMH has recently bought a stake in your company. How do feel about this major benchmark in your career?
It’s really the next stage for me. It’s so amazing to work with a company that has such amazing resources and experience. They’re such a great team and I really can’t think of anyone better to nurture me and to understand the challenges that I’m going to face. It’s a very exciting time.
What inspired you when designing your current A/W13 collection?
I was thinking a lot about classic couturier fabrics especially as it’s a very feminine range. Fabrics like pearls, lace, and velvet are present. It’s funny because these things often get a bad reputation for being old and granny-like but to me, there’s nothing more modern than pearls or lace.
You’ve just showcased your S/S14 collection at PFW, tell us about your new designs.
It’s very different to my most recent collections. The raffia, laser stencils and jacquard fabrics are inspired by Morocco. And the sporty soles have a 1970s sportswear feel.
What’s the secret behind a fabulous shoe?
I think the secret is, it needs to be something super special but in saying that it doesn’t have to be a high heel. It can be a great day shoe or something that really serves a purpose for you.
I think a good shoe needs to give you confidence and even change your mindset. I think it’s a lot like jewellery; it needs to give you that special feeling. If it’s also comfortable, well then that’s a great bonus.
Last time we interviewed you, you’d just launched your menswear line, do you have any plans to expand it?
It’s still a very tight collection and I want it to be bigger. The thing is, men’s shoes still need to have an element of me in them, otherwise men would just go to a high end cobbler.
Do you have a specific person in mind when designing your shoes?
It’s not really just one person. For me it’s all about the atheistic and getting the proportions right. I want my wearer to be someone that appreciates the unexpected.
It’s funny, until a couple of years ago I didn’t realise that a lot of people were doing mood boards to inspire their collections. To me that’s styling, not designing. I design from the ideas in my head. I put pen to paper and sketch, that’s how my shoes are designed. If I were to do a mood board now, it wouldn’t have any shoes on it.
You kicked off your career by working with milliner Phillip Treacy, what was the most important thing he taught you?
He taught me about integrity to the product and attention to detail. I was so lucky to spend five wonderful years with him and his beautiful hats. He always told me not be mediocre, and always break the boundaries – if you’re going to say something, say it with conviction.
Shoes, glorious shoes
Technically speaking, have the skills that you learnt doing millinery helped you to be a good shoe designer?
Making a hat is quite similar in ways and I think my millinery training helped me a lot with shoe designing. When I first started with Phillip Treacy I was sewing and doing linings and a lot of what we call ‘blocking’ in millinery, which is essentially shaping the hat and it’s really not that different to how shoes are made.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your shoes and also anyone that you wouldn’t?
I would really love to see Marion Cotillard wearing my shoes. I think she’s really amazing.
As for those I wouldn’t, there are loads of people, you are going to need a much bigger piece of paper. No, really, I don’t want to sound snobby but I don’t really like anyone involved in reality TV wearing my shoes. I’m not really into people being famous for being famous. Reality TV is like McDonalds – it might taste good but there’s no nutrition.
What advice would you offer to aspiring designers?
Find someone to do it with. Whether it’s a business partner, someone in finance, marketing or whatever. It can get lonely and you need someone who is just as passionate as you. You really need someone to bounce ideas off as when you are so involved in it you can’t tell anymore whether what you are doing is good or not. I am still working with my business partner that I started with and it’s been so helpful and inspiring.
What are the things that set you apart from other designers?
I really like to make shoes that make people think. I love exploring the silhouette and I love mixing maximalist with minimalism. I will create a simple silhouette for example and then add a bold pattern or interesting shape to it. I also think my shoes are different and thoughtful; I don’t just get a pump and put a bow on it.
Fashion Editor, Angela Beitz talks all things shoes with Nicholas Kirkwood
Images: Angela Beitz