Pac a punch

Pac a punch
PHOTO: The Straits Times, Nicholas Kirkwood

When your signature style features four-inch stiletto heels, zigzag cut-outs and platforms the shape of sickles, it's clear that you aren't designing for the fashionably bashful. A decade since Nicholas Kirkwood started making his own footwear - raising funds for his own collection by creating the catwalk shoes for Ghost and John Rocha - the 35-year-old shoe maestro remains fixated on the bolder side of fashion.

"Bo-oring," laments the British designer, when asked about the safer, more muted styles on the runway in recent seasons.

"Fashion goes round in circles and you see a lot of sameness, but then you also see a lot of people making an effort to do something interesting. I want to think that there are still people who want to make something of a statement."

He most certainly would, since his anniversary collection of limited-edition designs is anything but subtle. Born in 1980, he sought inspiration from nostalgic arcade culture and childhood action figurines from that decade - like a suede and patent heel studded with crystals to form the sector shape of Pac-man; or another platform in grey kid leather with chromed heels and acrylic glass inserts that resemble the retro-futuristic details of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon spacecraft.

"I never say that my shoes are works of art," admits Kirkwood, during an interview at On Pedder at Scotts Square, when he was in town to fete the opening of the shoe emporium and preview his 10th anniversary collection.

"But I would love for people to keep the 10th anniversary shoes in their boxes in their homes, because they aren't exactly a 'run down to the shops' kind of shoe."

Kirkwood worked with homegrown graphic artist and designer Theseus Chan, to whom he was introduced in 2009 by On Pedder, on the collectible box packaging for the shoes. The collection is exclusively available for pre-order from the store this month and customers will only receive the shoes next March.

"I wanted to celebrate 10 years of the brand with a collection that sums up many things for me and what I stand for," says Kirkwood, who sold an undisclosed stake in his brand to LVMH in 2013.

"To go back to the essence of why I started designing shoes; to challenge convention and subvert people's ideas of what footwear should look like and in this case, for '10', I wanted to experiment with 'graphicism' in a, quite literally, playful way. '10' explores the concept of being 10 years old again and the excitement of discovering something for the first time."

But while his shoes will always retain a playful quality through architectural shapes, eye-catching embellishments and plenty of colour, Kirkwood has moments of pragmatism, creating everyday designs that even the non-trendsetting woman might appreciate. The Casati Pearl Pump, for example, tries to create the impression of a woman walking on a string of pearls with a row of oversized baubles wedged within a platform.

And as much as some of his designs may seem out of the world, make no mistake, Kirkwood is one very serious creator and businessman. After working for five years with the late milliner Philip Treacy, whom he met on holiday while he was undergoing his foundation course at Saint Martins, and lived with the late fashion legend Isabella Blow, the designer started his own collection because he felt nobody was pushing the boundaries of shoe design at that point. Today, all his shoes are 100 per cent handmade in Italy and are currently sold in 40 countries, including stores in London, New York, Las Vegas, Paris and Beijing.

"There are a lot of cool girls out there who are irreverent and don't give a f***," says Kirkwood about his target demographic.

"Even if she makes an effort to not make an effort in the day, and wears Converse and jeans, she could still be a customer."


This article was first published on October 24, 2015.
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