THE X FAC­TOR

For quirky shoe de­signer NI­CHOLAS KIRK­WOOD step­ping into the un­known with Bul­gari is part of his the­ory of cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tion, writes KIERAN HO

#Legend - - THE FACE -

HOW DO A shoe de­signer and a jew­eller go about mesh­ing their tal­ents? Ni­cholas Kirk­wood, a Lon­don de­signer ex­traor­di­naire of footwear, has given life to myr­iad cool and kooky cre­ations. He has col­lab­o­rated with Ro­darte, Peter Pilotto, Pra­bal Gu­rung and even the Keith Har­ing Foun­da­tion. Part­ner­ship is in his na­ture, but he faced a new chal­lenge in de­sign­ing his first hand­bag in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ital­ian house Bul­gari. Kirk­wood takes the Ser­penti For­ever col­lec­tion, a Bul­gari clas­sic, and adds the play­ful touch that is his sig­na­ture. In do­ing so, he trans­forms the leather­work into some­thing tough and spiky yet fun, which boasts exquisitely crafted de­tail­ing. Here, Kirk­wood offers #leg­end an ex­clu­sive peek at his cre­ative process.

How did the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween you, a fa­mous shoe­maker, and Bul­gari, the legendary jew­eller, come about?

I’ve al­ways been open to cre­ative part­ner­ships, so the idea of col­lab­o­rat­ing had been in the works for a while. But what re­ally drove things was the idea to col­lab­o­rate on a com­pletely new prod­uct line from my own – hand­bags. I was also very keen to work with Bul­gari, as they have such a great rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence in crafts­man­ship and I find their leather ex­em­plary.

The ser­pent has been iconic to Bul­gari and now rep­re­sents the brand. What animal would rep­re­sent you?

It would have to be a bird-of-par­adise.

What does the Ser­penti For­ever col­lec­tion mean to you?

It has been an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence to not only col­lab­o­rate with Bul­gari’s cre­ative team but to be in­tro­duced to a whole new world of bags and jew­ellery. To have the op­por­tu­nity to work with Bul­gari on such an iconic prod­uct of that cat­e­gory has been very in­sight­ful and def­i­nitely a high­light of my ca­reer.

Had you de­signed bags be­fore this col­lab­o­ra­tion? What is dif­fer­ent when it comes to de­sign­ing shoes and hand­bags?

No, this is the first time I have de­signed hand­bags. Al­though they are two com­pletely dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, hand­bags and shoes share sim­i­lar er­gonomics, es­pe­cially in terms of struc­ture and sil­hou­ette, so the process ac­tu­ally felt quite fa­mil­iar and natural to me. It was also in­sight­ful to work along­side the ex­perts at Bul­gari to de­velop our ideas.

I’m sure there is more to it than meets the eye when it comes to this range of bags. What in­flu­enced your de­sign process?

Bul­gari’s high jew­ellery pieces were re­ally the start­ing point for this col­lec­tion. It all hap­pened dur­ing a visit to the Rome ate­lier where all the be­spoke pieces are made. I was speak­ing with the ar­ti­sans there and the level of in­cred­i­ble de­tail re­ally struck me.

“I want to be able to ex­pand into other types of prod­ucts and I think, for now, the best way of me do­ing that is through col­lab­o­ra­tions like these” NI­CHOLAS KIRK­WOOD

There was one crafts­man who ex­plained that when mak­ing a sym­met­ri­cal piece of jew­ellery he some­times waits up to six months to find a match­ing stone. I found that kind of at­ten­tion to de­tail ex­tra­or­di­nary. That’s where I be­gan think­ing. I de­cided I wanted to de­velop an al­most or­ganic de­sign process for this col­lec­tion, to re­flect that of the fine jew­ellery.

Af­ter this col­lab­o­ra­tion, can we ex­pect to see an ex­pan­sion of your line be­yond shoes?

I want to be able to ex­pand into other types of prod­ucts and I think, for now, the best way of me do­ing that is through col­lab­o­ra­tions like these. Watch this space.

What are your thoughts on this cli­mate of rapid digi­ti­sa­tion, whether it’s e-com­merce or In­sta-fa­mous peo­ple? How has your cre­ative process changed since launch­ing your first col­lec­tion in 2005?

So much has changed but the thing that stands out the most would have to be so­cial me­dia. It has trans­formed the way cus­tomers in­ter­act with a brand. I would say my cre­ative process is still the same but I al­ways try to push the bound­aries and ex­per­i­ment with new tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies, where pos­si­ble. I have re­cently bought a 3D printer for the of­fice, which I am lov­ing. It is great to see a pro­to­type that I have just de­signed ar­rive on my desk two hours af­ter cre­at­ing it. Of course I still sketch as well but al­ways on my tablet.

Are you ever nos­tal­gic for the past? Or are you more ex­cited about the fu­ture?

I’m a firm be­liever in not looking back. I al­ways look to the fu­ture. That def­i­nitely ex­cites me more.

Who is your style icon? Do you have a muse?

A lot of peo­ple in­flu­ence my work but some­one that I would say al­ways in­flu­ences me and some­one that I would say is my muse would have to be Stella Ten­nant.

Who is your leg­end?

Nikola Tesla. #

“The thing that stands out the most would have to be so­cial me­dia. It has trans­formed the way cus­tomers in­ter­act with a brand. My cre­ative process is still the same but I al­ways try to push the bound­aries and ex­per­i­ment with new tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies” NI­CHOLAS KIRK­WOOD

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