Nicholas Kirkwood is on a roll. This past January, he became the first accessories designer to pick up the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, beating out a slew of buzzy ready-to-wear designers like Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto. And just today, the New York Post is crowning him the "new Manolo."
But he never lets it go to his head. We caught up with Kirkwood during Paris fashion week to ask him about his big win, the possibility of handbags in the pipeline, and being a miserable fashion intern (he's just like us!).
Fashionista: Congrats! What did it feel like to win the BFC award? It was a real honor. Considering it's normally given to ready-to-wear designers, to be the first accessories person to ever win it, it's a nice recognition of things--to get that stamp of approval.
Were you surprised? Yeah totally! You always assume it's going to go to a ready-to-wear person.
What can you do now that you couldn't before with the prize money and the recognition that the award affords? The money which will allow me make some key hires--someone that can help the business. We want to build a design team and hire some more senior management as well.
What's the story for the fall collection? There's so much to look at! Within the collection it's about exploring traditional, really luxurious type of materials--you have python, lace, lace fused with suede and furs--and how these kind of play together.
[Holding up a white fur knee-length boot with sheer panels] Where do you imagine someone will wear this? Well it's not exactly going to be the most practical keep-you-warm shoes--they'll keep you warm and air conditioned at the same time. It's meant to be a bit of fun, it's more about the concept of it.
Would you ever want to branch out into other categories? I think bags would be the natural extension.
So you think that's on the horizon? Yeah, within the next few seasons. Once again it's not something I want to rush into, I want to make sure the timing is right, the product is right, and to do it the right way. I think some shoe designers have had found it really difficult coming into the bag market.
Why do you think that is? Because sometimes the identity you create with the shoes doesn't necessarily translate into bags the same way. It's just about not rushing to do it just to do it. Better to develop it and be ready to sell it than decide 'No that's not quite right,' and then put it back.
What always strikes me about you is your humbleness and humility. How do you maintain that? I think you've kind of got to. I don't think being a meanie is going to get you very far. And I used to be an intern, people were mean to me before, and now I ignore those people.
Do you have any horror stories from your intern days? Not particularly. Just people ignoring you, [and being mean] like saying 'Fuck you!' But I think being an intern is good experience. As long as you're confident where you're going, as long as you get from A to B, it doesn't matter how you get there. You can stress and shout at people, but [better to] just be nice and get on with it."
Check out a sampling of Kirkwood's fall 2013 collection.