The edgy designs of British shoemaker Nicholas Kirkwood are pushing footwear in a bold new direction.
by Erin Newberg
While vacationing recently in London, I was presented to a young man whom you—if you are a fashion aficionado or have picked up The New York Times Sunday Styles section or a major Condé Nast fashion publication at any time in the past few years—may have heard of: Nicholas Kirkwood. One of the world’s most in-demand shoe designers, he has opened a breathtakingly modern boutique on Mount Street, the most desired real estate in Mayfair. Like a kid in a candy store, I stared in amazement at these wearable masterpieces that are a fusion of art, fashion and architecture.
At age 18, the German-born Kirkwood enrolled into the arts program at the legendary Central Saint Martins school, where Alexander McQueen, Jonathan Saunders, Christopher Kane and milliner Philip Treacy also studied. (Kirkwood started in Treacy’s business as a intern, and befriended style icon Isabella Blow, the woman behind multiple discoveries in the fashion world.) Thirteen years later, Kirkwood has a notable résumé under his belt: After creating accessories for Rodarte, John Rochas, Ghost and Erdem, he currently serves as creative director for the Italian line Pollini, where he took the brand from matronly to wearable everyday fashion.
Most importantly, though, Nicholas focuses on his eponymous label with a very global, hands-on approach. We had a rendezvous at Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops when he was on a quick visit to Saks Fifth Avenue, instructing the sales team about his brand. (Last fall, Kirkwood launched an exclusive line for the department store.) His understated look comprised a worn black T-shirt, sneakers and simple Chanel aviators. You wouldn’t expect a man who is so extravagant in his designs to be so simple, but that’s really the uniquely charming part about him. He updated me on his current expansion, which includes opening boutiques in New York City, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.