Yesterday, Zurich’s best shoe shop Lovers Lane hosted a trunk show to present the gorgeous creations of Nicholas Kirkwood. The British designer is the biggest name in shoes today, known for his craftsmanship and innovative designs, that are instantly recognisable. He also has a lot of celeb fans, among them Sarah Jessica Parker who wore his extravagant designs all the way through the Sex and the City 2 promotions.
The famed footman came extra to the Swiss city for the event last night and I was very lucky to do an extensive interview with him before he left for New York for a meeting with Anna Wintour this morning.
Nicholas Kirkwood with me
You were born in Germany. Do you speak any German?
No, I was just born there because my Dad was living in Münster at that time.
Being here in Zurich today to present your amazing creations, do you have a vision of the typical Swiss woman?
I came to Switzerland quite a lot when I was younger for my ski holidays. We were always staying at the same hotel that was run by lady who was very firm, and very strict, you could never do something wrong. When we were running around, she would say no-no.
So tonight I am looking forward to meeting another type of Swiss ladies and see how my customers here look like.
Which woman do you have in mind when creating your shoes in general?
One season is more feminine, the other more angular. It is quite open. Therefore I like to do events like tonight. Seeing the shops I sell to and meeting the women’s wishes. Every market is different. You have to start somewhere.
You logded with the late Isabella Blow? Has her eccentric style influenced your work?
She was very encouraging. Any new idea, any of her thoughts would make a good idea. And of course, knowing her was amazing, her inspiration and unique character.
Is there a celeb woman that you would love to dress in your shoes that does not wear them yet?
A very interesting question. Let me think. If I was walking in the streets and my cell phone would be ringing and somebody would be asking me for shoes, who would shock me the most? Mmh, Madonna, no… Now I know. Imelda Marcos! I just want her to have my shoes even if she probably can’t wear them anymore.
Lovers Lane sells other brands as well. Which one do you like the best?
I love very much what Charlotte Olympia does. A wonderful girl, very beautiful. I think we sometimes have the same customer, it is a very close but friendly competition.
I know that you are not a big fan of kitten heels. So how did you like this season’s shoe trend? Will we see one day a Kirkwood kitten heel?
I kind of did a kitten heel, but it was very strange looking. There is more a hype, than a reality to it. A lot of people want it to be a trend, are pushing it to be a trend.
The shoes might be not as high as they were in the last few seasons and I might be completely wrong but I just do not see this happen.
You have a signature look that is instantly recognisable . I truly admire that, especially with all the different collaborations you do, like for example Rodarte, Erdem, Peter Pilotto. Now, you are the new creative director for Pollini. You seem to be an unlikely fit for the traditional house. Do you have a carte blanche? How much freedom do you get in creating for other designers?
Pollini is a big challenge and I like it. I have a lot of work and I do not sleep much.
The best collaborations come out of working together. I’d hate it to be just told „do what you want“. The other party tries to bring the most into it. So the final product is the result of both rather than being too heavily weighted on one side or the other.
How did the pop-up e-commerce shop go? (The runway shoes he created for Peter Pilotto and Erdem were available for just a few days during London Fashion week.)
Would you do it again?
I think we will do it again. It was a great experiment.
In some ways it is the future. Probably sad to say but that is the way things are going to go and we like to keep ahead of the game. Burberry did it with clothes. I might be wrong, but with shoes we were the first.
Fashion is so quick. Something can seem old before it even hits the shops.
Will there be a Nicholas Kirkwood online shop soon? Do you dream of your own stores?
Yes, but we are not there yet.
In 2009, you created jelwery in collaboration with Swarovski? Will we see more Kirkwood in the future? For example handbags, menswear and more?
Men’s shoes, handbags, jewlery and sunglasses, yes! Soon…
Do you like things to be matchy-matchy? Like matching your bag to your shoes?
No, hate it. Similiar colour that is o.k..
Experimenting with heel shapes, negative spaces and shoe shapes might be pretty expensive. Do you have some base models you always start working with?
I try to always do something new. As soon as I have finished the collection, I start over again. I re-start and also keep something. Partly it is mostly somewhere close of what I have just done. Fashion is too quick to always change.
I read once that you do not like fastenings and excess, do you still agree with that? Has your focus changed or developed during the last years?
No, it is not that I do not like it. There is sometimes a need to have a buckle and sometimes I try to think of other solutions than a buckle. But it is also nice to have those elements in there. When you are at a young stage, you start out on one tune.
Now, I am trying to expand the range, become more obedient to different types of customers, to become more of a shoe brand not just a niche for a small community.
Those details will become part of the collection more and more. There will always be my signature in it, but probably just not so in your face.
Is there a creation that you find horrible today?
Oh yes, especially a shoe that comes out crooked. I normally try to hide and burn it without anybody seeing the disaster.
Did you ever see a woman wearing your shoes and you did not like what you saw?
Sometimes, when I see somebody wearing my shoes completely beaten up. But on the other way, it is a sign that she very much loved them.
I hate it if they are wearing the wrong size and the toes are hanging out.
Have a you ever made a shoe in which it was impossible to stand or walk?
Yes, especially for photo shoots. You could stand in them for 10 seconds and that was it.
The Alice in Wonderland shoes that I made for Printemps in Paris, you could probably not walk in them because of the little hanging porcelaine cups.
Do you have a favourite of your designs?
In some ways I am never satiesfied with anything. Sometimes I am very happy with the way things come out. But once the shoe is made, I am over it. I have seen the process for so long, it gets kind of boring after a while.
It is like recording an album. You are listening to the same thing for such a long time, that by the time it is finished, you can’t stand it.
Your shoes melt contemporary art and fashion? Best example is the upcoming Keith Haring collection. Do you see yourself as an artist?
No, not at all. I am more of a product designer. I studied fine arts at St. Martins. I am a big fan of art. It is a completely other thing. You do not replace it so easily like a piece of fashion. It has more of a longevity to it. There are similiarities to it like the way people get excited.
I feel a little like the art world looks kind of down on the fashion world, a little bit of a high brow.
Could you imagine to do a collaboration with H&M? Or to create a more budget-friendly second line?
Not yet. I have been approached by similiar kind of things. I always like to promote the quality manufacturing and made in Italy. That is what I sort of believe in. It is different with the ready-to-wear. Regarding footwear, you will really notice a cheap pair of shoes . I don’t want to say that I will never do it. (Laughs…) I will wait until I can make a hell out of money out of it for a one-time-thing. And make a big party after.
I mean, there are a lot of people out there, not everything has to be accessible to everybody.
I don’t say that I will never, there is just no need at the moment unless I will be forced by a powerful editor who says you have to.
Like the one you are seeing tomorrow (Anna Wintour)?
Laughs again. No, not her.
I hope that you have liked the interview. I had a blast talking to Nicholas as he is such a sweet guy. The party at Lovers Lane was really great. I took some photos for you to get an impression.
And gentlemen, sometimes it is worth going shoe-shopping with your wifes or girlfriends. There might be a little treat for you, too.
Daniela Karagi and Melanie Guenthardt, the two ladies behind Lovers Lane with me
Photos: Sandra Bauknecht