Award-winning shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood discusses his inspiration, his new collection and his take on Warhol’s shoe illustrations, which will be offered in the Prints and Multiples sale on 22 March.

How did you become a shoe designer?

I was always interested in the form and design of objects when I was growing up and spent a lot of time drawing and crafting things from an early age. After I left school I went to Central St Martins to do a foundation course in fine art and from there started working for a renowned London milliner in his shop. There I kept noticing these incredible women coming in with beautiful dresses looking for hats to match, but the shoes were always an after-thought. I kept thinking there was a real space for intricately crafted and creatively designed shoes to complete an outfit. I then went to Cordwainers and did their year course on how to actually make shoes, as opposed to the other course they offer on shoe design. From there I created my first collection by hand on my parent’s kitchen table… and the rest is history, as they say!


Where do you seek inspiration for your collections? Does art inspire you?

Art is definitely the main inspiration for my work whether it is painting, sculpture, architecture or photography. There is so much out there I’ve found that I like and that I still want to discover.

For the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, for example, I was fascinated by an exploration of negative spaces and their positive effects. My main inspiration for this collection came from mirrored architecture, specifically Phillip K. Smith III’s Lucid Stead installation. I kept looking at how the reflective, interrupted surface of this ‘shed’ standing in a desert creates illusions of camouflage and invisibility, drawing focus to the surrounding shapes and abstract presence of the wood cabin.

Were you aware of Warhol’s shoe illustrations?

I’m a big fan of Warhol and have been for a long time. A few people told me about his shoe illustrations but I hadn’t actually seen any until Sotheby’s sent me the details. I would love to bid on them… 

Do you think these drawings would work as practical designs and do they appeal to your aesthetic?

I think a lot of these designs would work practically. I’m particularly interested in the shape of the toe Warhol has incorporated in to a lot of them. As a designer, vintage designs and sketches are always part of your research process and I’ve spent a long time studying these drawings – they definitely appeal to my aesthetic, all of Warhol’s work does in different ways.

How does your creative process work when devising a new collection?

Music is always the starting place for me when I sit down to actually design and draw out a collection. The first thing I do to create a mood and feeling for a collection is go on Spotify to put a playlist together that will then be edited by the music curator we work with and used when we present the collection to buyers and press. It will even play in our store to customers when the collection goes on sale.


What would you say was your signature style?

I would say my signature style is feminine and slightly irreverent with an intellectual and often playful bent.

Having just celebrated the 10th anniversary of your brand, what advice would you give to your 2005 self?

I would remind myself to stay passionate as that's when your best work comes out but to also keep an eye on the work life balance… it sounds almost trite but it’s very important to step out from time to time and take a vacation. Hindsight is also a wonderful thing!

Nicholas Kirkwood’s latest collection can be seen at his store at 5 Mount Street in London or at