Watch out Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, and Jimmy Choo — there’s a new kid in town. At 31, British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood is well on his way to joining their league. Kirkwood, who studied fine art at London’s Central Saint Martins, pursued shoe design after a stint with milliner Philip Treacy. Realizing there was a gap in the luxury market for shoes akin to the artistic creations of Treacy, Alexander McQueen, and Hussein Chalayan, Kirkwood enrolled in Cordwainers College to learn the craft of shoemaking. Almost a decade later, Kirkwood’s unconventional use of materials like laser-cut mirror, pearlescent beads, and Lucite in his sculptural footwear has attracted collaborations with labels like Rodarte and Erdem. He’s also set to open a New York boutique in the West Village. ARTINFO caught up with Kirkwood during fashion week meet-and-greet at Saks Fifth Avenue to discuss art, his plans, and which designers he’s working with this season.
What shows are you attending for fashion week?
Here in New York I’ll be going to Suno and Prabal Gurung. I did the shoes for both those shows. I’m looking forward to that.
Who else did you collaborate with on shoes for this fashion week?
We had Prabal Gurung and Suno in New York, and in London we did Erdem, Rocksander, Peter Pilotto, and through my consultancy we’re doing Giles, Louise Gray, Manish Arora, and then we got a couple others as well — eight or nine in total.
What’s the process when you collaborate with a designer?
They give me the theme for the season, what they’re working on, see what we can start with, the toe shape, the heels, and trying to incorporate the colors, so we come up with something really unique and special. It really depends on what the designer is after.
Your shoes are so sculptural. How does your fine art degree play into your aesthetics?
I think studying fine art — art and design is very different. Design is very much like an applied art, but I do try to approach it in a way that I try to make them as creative as I can, but at the same time, they still have to have a function. You have to be able to get your foot in, and hope it's not too out there for people, then people don’t want to buy them.
Who are your favorite artists?
I like Mustafa Hulusi. I saw his work in London. I love the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth, and Anish Kapoor. I love photography, all sorts of things.
You designed a line with the Keith Haring Foundation.
Of course, Keith Haring as well!
Are there any other artist-inspired collections or collaborations coming up?
Not as yet. We’re maybe doing a collaboration in London with an artist, but it’s not confirmed yet.
In your opinion, what’s the relationship between art and fashion?
You have YSL and the Mondrian dress, the two worlds are very interlinked, but fashion is something that turns over seasonally, it’s a very quick process. But art is something when produced, is something that really has a value for more than just six months.