Shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood's 1980s inspired collection has packaging designed by Singaporean

Shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s 10th anniversary collection comprises loud designs such as The Arcade (left), Neon City (top right) and NK-PO (bottom right), packaged in funky boxes.
Shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s 10th anniversary collection comprises loud designs such as The Arcade (left), Neon City (top right) and NK-PO (bottom right), packaged in funky boxes. PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD

Shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood launches his 10th anniversary collection inspired by 1980s arcade and pop culture

British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood, known for his architectural designs and extreme runway creations, has teamed up with award-winning Singaporean graphic designer Theseus Chan for his limited-edition 10th anniversary collection.

The 35-year-old bachelor was in Singapore last week to launch the collection at the official opening of luxury multi-label shoe and accessories retailer Pedder On Scotts at Scotts Square.

The shoe designer, a favourite among millennial celebrities including Alexa Chung, Zendaya Coleman and Rihanna, has been known to love a good collaboration – he has worked with creative names such as American label Rodarte and fashion designer Peter Pilotto.

Chan designed the packaging for the collection as well as the logo and graphics for the line’s microsite (www.nicholaskirkwood10.com).

The two designers met through their work with On Pedder. Chan, the founder of Work – a creative consultancy whose clients include Japanese label Comme des Garcons and Singapore retailer Club 21 – designs the graphics for On Pedder’s bi-annual fashion and art publication Pedderzine. He also works on its publicity campaigns.

Kirkwood tells Life: “I’ve known Theseus’ work for years through Pedderzine... I went to visit him at his studio about five years ago and I’ve always wanted to work with him. I was just waiting for the absolute right project and this was it.”

The anniversary collection, called 10, comprises 10 styles inspired by the arcade and pop culture of the 1980s, particularly those that had a part to play in Kirkwood’s childhood.

Born in 1980, he pays homage to some of the decade’s most influential icons, including arcade game Pac-Man (1980) and the films Back To The Future (1985) and Star Wars (1977).

While the embellishments and designs on the shoes are tied to the nostalgic theme, the silhouettes of the footwear take their cue from Kirkwood’s signature inverted platform design – which he introduced in 2008 and which appears to have a backward-facing sole under the toe.

The made-to-order anniversary collection was launched in Britain last month and is available for pre-order here exclusively at Pedder On Scotts. Prices start at $3,700 and go up to $10,500 for a pair of heels decorated with a crystal-embellished Pac-Man.

Keychains, pouches, a tote bag and a mobile phone case are also on sale to complement the shoes.

“The whole concept was about looking at all the things I grew up with in the first 10 years of my life. The idea of being 10 again,” says Kirkwood. “I really did have fun with the collection. I took a very uncompromising approach to it. There’re a lot of techniques in there that are very expensive and new and experimental.”

These techniques included precision laser-cutting, machine engraving, as well as marquetry. For example, a Pac-Man-inspired pair, titled The Arcade ($4,900), has laser-cut suede with embroidered and colour-frosted glass embellishments.

Another distinctly disco pair, Neon City ($8,500), is made with blue suede with luminescent foil details and laces. Its acrylic heel went through a precision-cutting process.

Kirkwood says: “I wanted to create characters for each pair.”

He explains that multiple techniques were tested and some new ones had to be developed for almost every design in the collection.

“The neon shoe, for example. All the white lines glow in the dark. But I didn’t know where to get this material or how to create it. So I had to go to an emergency exit sign manufacturer to get it. And I found this very fine foil which I could bind to the plastics which glows in the way I wanted.”

In a previous interview with Life, he had said he believes in marrying practicality with his statement-making designs. In fact, lower-heeled shoes and flats that retain his signature aesthetic were added to the label’s repertoire two years ago.

But he acknowledges that the 10 collection is not for everyday shoes. “I mean, look at them,” he says, laughing softly.

“They absolutely can be worn as a shoe. I mean, they are constructed to function as a shoe. But I would also love it if people kept them in their boxes almost like a collectors’ item and had them on display as a kind of surreal object in their house.”

He launched his first eponymous collection for spring/summer 2005. The collection earned him the Conde Nast Footwear News Vivan Infantino award in 2006 for emerging talent. Past winners of the prestigious award include shoe designers Charlotte Olympia and Sophia Webster.

Prior to that, he studied fine art at Central Saint Martins in London and shoe-making at the City’s Cordwainers College of Fashion.

He also worked with London-based milliner Philip Treacy for five years before venturing out on his own.

He opened his first standalone store in 2009 in London and now has stores in New York, Las Vegas, Paris and Beijing. His shoes are carried at more than 150 department and speciality stores across the world including Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods.

In Singapore, they are carried exclusively at On Pedder. As for opening a standalone store here, he says that is something he might consider in the future.

His label proved to be a serious player in the luxury shoe business in 2013, when multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH bought a major stake in the brand.

Onhow this has helped his brand, Kirkwood says: “I think it allowed us to mature and put us in a position where we could take the brand to the next level. I’ve been able to fulfil my vision more for the brand.”

He says there are many other products he would like to apply his aesthetic to, from sunglasses to bags to jewellery. He also intends to continue working with other creative minds.

“There’re a lot of people I would like to collaborate with, there are some great artists out there. I would like to work with film-makers even, do something that’s maybe not a product.”

On whom he looks up to in the shoe industry, he says: “I think Manolo Blahnik is incredible, I mean, he’s the master. Pierre Hardy is amazing as well. And for me, it’s also some of the oldies, people like Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, they were incredibly modern thinkers who really pushed how the structures of shoes changed. They really challenged the conceptions of their time.”

Despite the fame and success he is enjoying, he manages to keep himself grounded, thanks in part to a piece of advice he received.

“It was – never be worried about hiring someone better than you. You know, if you don’t know something, hire someone to fill that. Because some people think that they should know everything.”

At the opening party for Pedder On Scotts,Kirkwood was surrounded by guests wanting to take selfies with him – to which he politely obliged.

With such a big fan base that stretches from Hollywood It girls to Singapore tai-tais, he obviously knows what appeals to his audience.

But even after a decade in the industry, there is something he still does not get.

“Why do women love shoes so much? I don’t understand it. I mean, I think it’s fascinating, but why a woman would need 400 pairs of shoes, I’m not sure. But I totally lap it up. I love it.

“It means there’re people out there who will always be looking for something new. As a designer, that’s great, that’s what keeps you going. I love it that women are passionate about shoes.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - LIF_LEAD'. Print Edition | Subscribe