Behind the Collection: Nicholas Kirkwood

KirkwoodOpen by Grandin Donovan
Nicholas Kirkwood has earned many accolades since his Spring '05 debut, but as Fashion Week approaches, the young, London-based shoe designer is as pressed as anyone to get ready for the runway. With a fine arts foundation at Central Saint Martin's, Nicholas worked for Britain's mad milliner, Philip Treacy, before studying shoemaking at Cordwainers College in East London. Previous seasons have been coveted at Harrod's, and his latest will soon grace Bergdorf Goodman's main floor. Look for his work at the Anne Christensen-styled Cynthia Steffee show on Monday, February 6, and at the upcoming Sharon Wauchob show in Paris. Nicholas was in Bologna last Friday, putting on his finishing touches. Here, he talks to Refinery29 about his process behind-the-scenes and what comes out on the other side.
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FIRST STEPS
"Just from doodling. It's a bit like, 'Wouldn't this kinda be great?' Something like that. A lot of it is very free the way I do it—it evolves itself. I don't necessarily think at the beginning of the season, 'This is what we're doing.' The only thing is I have to try certain ideas. I've got to try to make it whole together, as a collection. Apart from that, I let it quite freely come out."
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ARCHITECTURAL FOOTWEAR
"It's about silhouettes... It's about the shape of the last and about the shape of the actual pattern that's drawn onto the last, and color or material combinations. I don't use diamantes. I don't use anything that's stuck onto the shoe. In certain ways it's architectural, I suppose. Old-fashioned buildings like to be very decorative on the outside, but the basic shape is still a block, whereas modern buildings are more concerned about the actual shape of the building itself, rather than what's put on as ornamentation. That's sort of the way I try to think of my shoes in a sense, especially when it comes to the heels.
FROM DOODLE TO SAMPLE
"I'm ordering a lot of materials before the designs are finished, as such. I actually finish maybe around a month-and-a-half before, cause then it goes to a pattern cutter. I sit with a pattern cutter a lot of the time to get the lines that I want, exactly the way I want them. First they make the proofs, and then I adjust those, and they get readjusted in the pattern, and then it goes into getting the actual samples made in Italy..."
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PRODUCTION
"...in Bologna. It's a very small factory, a very artisan kind of factory. The quality is great. All our stuff is hand folded and there's a lot of handwork in it. The actual lasting itself—the pulling of the leather over the form, which I was taught to do by hand—that's done by machine. That's why I don't [call it handmade], although I could be nearer saying 'handmade' than a lot of people that do write 'handmade' on their stuff."
COLLECTION
"I normally end up with a collection of about 25 pieces, and within that maybe 18 to 19 styles. I went through a couple of seasons using stingray. When it's shaved down it almost looks like a mosaic of glass. It's very difficult to stitch. This season there's a whole part of [the collection] which is derived from what would be considered 'loafers'—although they're not 'flat' loafers in that sort of way. It's my sort of twisted bashing of that kind of thing. I've got certain patterns that turn inside-out. I'm also using materials like ostrich...and metallic piping...that I haven't used before. If you're used to what I've done in the last couple of seasons, although it's very much my idea of how it should be, there are a lot of new shapes in there, and a couple new ideas."
A limited line of Nicholas Kirkwood for Boudicca will soon be availabe at London's Dover Street Market, Milan's Tea Rose, St. Petersberg's Day & Night, and New York's Seven.
An easy manner belies a man at work. Busy in Bologna, British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood gears into a new season.
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