EXCLUSIVE: GrandLife Interviews Nicholas Kirkwood
So you’re excited to show here in New York, assumedly?
Nicholas Kirkwood: Yes. Definitely – we haven’t always used to show in New York, for a while it was just Paris actually.
How do you determine where you’ll be showing?
NK: We always used to do just Paris because it’s the last one and we had more time to get the collections ready, but now that’s not terribly effective any more because it seriously delays how long it takes to get the orders in, etc. We always see the same people in Paris as we do here, but we can get so many orders in so much earlier by showing in NYC that it actually makes a huge difference.
A waitress pops by our table at the Soho Grand and we order a few glasses of bubbly
We love champagne – the least amount of calories of most booze, it’s great for the diet we’re pretending to be on.
NK: Oh god don’t remind me, I need to get back on some semblance of a diet – I always do so well until some any old holiday comes along and then it’s all out the window. Truthfully I’ve been down in Jamaica too much lately eating loads of jerk chicken. I’m almost to the point where I just have to say “Alright, that’s it – bring in the personal trainer.”
Haha! We can definitely sympathize – working out is the last thing on a busy person’s mind, and your mind is certainly busy. Do you have any pre-designing ritual that you go through?
NK: Oh definitely, it’s pretty simple though – nice big table, lot’s of tea with heaps of sugar and milk, pack of cigarettes, tons of paper, and then just start doodling away when no-one’s around, toss some headphones on and just zone out. That’s basically the ritual, of course there’s always the point of any initial creative stage where you just have to ask yourself – what’s this season going to be about?
We have fond memories of doodling out futuristic cars, where the sky is the limit and nobody’s around to tell you that you’re wrong – is sketching out a collection any similar?
NK: Yeah definitely – there is a way you can still invent things, like someone invented the first pump, out of nothing for instance, that can be done, and the more you keep reaching for big things and try to create something new – the more of a chance you might actually stand to succeed. It’s not easy to do it, and it doesn’t always happen, but I still think there’s room for something new.
If you had one material you were forced to design with for the rest of your life, what would it be?
NK: Suede or Patent Leather, just because you can get the most vibrant colors out of them, maybe some satins, but I really love suede just because of the amazing colors you can get.
How involved in the process of creating a shoe are you? Are you involved at every stage from dyeing to manufacture?
NK: We get a lot of our materials, and inspiration for materials from these trade fairs that happen – not just leather but all materials. We do all of our own prints now, and when we do have time I try to come up with new fabrics, but sometimes these things take so long to develop that it isn’t practical. I usually try to start with a shape, I always need to think of the silhouette first, but definitely where possible I do try to innovate material wise.
We get the impression from what we’ve seen of your collections that there’s a theme of “Too much is never enough” tied through all of your shoes, would you say that’s true?
NK: Yeah, I think if you’re going to say something – do it. Definitely do it in multiple versions – in the past I’ve been guilty of not offering multiple versions of a style of shoe, which ruffles some feathers. Some people have to have every color of a shoe style, and I’ve tried to get better at that. Having our own stores has been a huge learning curve as well, just trying to understand our customer more, etc.
A bit of a curveball: has anyone ever asked you to make a men’s shoe?
NK: Funny enough I’ve already begun making a men’s line – If everything goes to plan I’ll be showing them in January at London Fashion Week. Men’s fashion week has been a huge success in London. Before I ever made women’s shoes, I used to make my own Men’s shoes. I would make them at home, which is way easier than making women’s shoes which you need all sorts of special machinery for.
Is it tricky designing a product (women’s shoes) that you will never wear?
NK: Never wear outdoors you mean! Haha – it would be great if I had a little 3rd leg like a Swiss Army knife that I could whip out to try women’s shoes on, alas I’m forced to rely on what feedback I get from the women around me. At least with men’s shoes I’ll be sampling them in my size for a change…
Dead or alive, name someone who you’d love to see in your shoes.
NK: I’d love to make some shoes for Cate Blanchett, I think she’s super cool. I think Edie Sedgwick would be great too, if only because my shoes would get to see some really good times. I like to believe my shoes would have been very at home in the 60’s and 70’s in the factory. I was so happy when I got the request to do shoes for Tilda Swinton, and until she requested them, she would have been my dream model. She’s so incredible to look at, so striking! Those piercing eyes, very ethereal. Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing them last night, that was cool.
So what’s been on your iPod lately?
NK: Truthfully I end up listening to a lot of internet radio – this great one called Pig Radio but I find I always end up on the Colette website – you literally just go on their site and let it play. I’m always blasting a bit of electro, tons of smashing pumpkins. I just picked up a really great pair of headphones that I can just blast music to, which is totally necessary because I listen to a certain song over and over and over again.
Once your music is blasting in your ears, how do you come up with names for your shoes?
NK: That’s really something I’ve had to work on actually. I never used to name them, I just used to give them number names, which was easy but really wasn’t great for buyers to keep track of. It’s gotten to the point now though when someone says like oh I love that “3052” look that I won’t necessarily know which one they’re talking about. I also think that customers really connect more when you give a shoe a really personal name, it gives them something to hold on to in their minds. It’s also way easier for the press. It’s hard though, because you really have to name a shoe properly, each one’s like naming a baby. I love racehorse names, even just parts of the names I love using. Greek god names too actually.
After you’ve finished naming your shoes, and once you’re here situated getting ready to show in NYC – what’s something that you just can’t miss?
NK: Apart from going to all the stores that show my shoes, I’d probably have to say Pop Burger. I. Love. Pop. Burger. I love the one in midtown. Of course the usual rigmarole of nightclubs that you end up going to, but usually end up spending most of my time saying hi to the floor staff of every store that sells my stuff – lot’s of that really.
A friend of ours once helped your mother at a shop she works at in NY, and she was by far and away the most proud woman she’s ever seen – is it safe to say your mother is your biggest fan?
NK: Of course my mom’s my biggest fan! She does this all the time, she goes to certain stores and acts like she doesn’t want to say anything and lets it build up till she explodes and tells all the shop girls that she’s my mum and it’s very sweet and hilarious, I’m just afraid that she’ll start whipping out baby pictures at these things. She couldn’t be more supportive.
Couldn’t be happier to hear, thanks so much for sitting down with GrandLife, and good luck this NYFW!
NK: Thanks very much, cheers!