Considering that designer Brian Atwood once had his ad campaign banned from taxi televisions for being too risqué, his most recent gig — designing shoes for the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show — was one he was born to have. Last year, Sophia Webster and Nicholas Kirkwood created custom footwear to complement the wild costumes and Angel wings, but this time around, Atwood was asked to design solo for the whole shebang based on six themes: "Boho Psychedelic," "Exotic Butterflies," "Portrait of an Angel," "Pink USA," "Ice Angel" and the finale, "Fireworks."
"It was exciting and chaotic all at the same time," Atwood said. After a whirlwind two months of ideation, sketching and sample production in Milan, the shoes arrived in New York in September, where they made the rounds to fittings and photo shoots with the models. "What designer doesn't want [his] shoes on the Victoria's Secret runway, especially when you can see them on these beautiful girls," said Atwood, who likened the final show to a concert. The backstage atmosphere, however, was a different experience. "The models had to start as early as 7 a.m.," he explained. "It was a lot — with security and [bomb sniffing] dogs — you could probably get into the White House better than backstage. But it was great to be back there... it was pretty impressive and just the whole production value was amazing."
We spoke with Atwood, who's traveling between New York City and Milan while finishing up his pre-fall 2016 collection, about how he played up the models' physiques with the shoes, his creative process and whether or not you'll see his exclusive designs from the show hit stores anytime soon.
With so much going on visually during the show, from costumes to models and performers, what was your strategy behind designing the footwear?
Just make them sexy as hell — that's what [the Victoria's Secret] motto is. They have these sexy women and we really had to make them showstoppers, whether that's with color technique or heightening the heels. What's also great is the models can really walk in heels. It's so nice to see them literally walk like they're on air. We didn't want to take any chances with new styles. Instead, we really emphasized some of the workmanship that we've used in the past.
Were there any shoe styles you used to play up the models' physiques?
Obviously the models' physiques are extraordinary. We wanted to use these amazing thigh-high boots that were extra long. The over-the-knee boot usually goes halfway up your upper leg, but we brought some of our boots all the way up as far as we could to elongate the silhouette. And to give that impact they wanted — it's a show, so everything needs to be exaggerated.
You mentioned on Instagram that the show's designers created wings specifically to match the over-the-knee fringe boots you made. Can you tell us a little more about that?
The team fell in love with one of my fringe boots from last fall and wanted them for the "Boho Psychedelic" theme, so they made wings around the beauty of the boot. The pattern of the wings was actually cut into the boots' fringe, and you never lose the motif while [Martha Hunt] was walking. It's a constant movement from the design of the boots.
Out of the six themes for the show, did you have a favorite?
The most fun ones were "Boho Psychedelic," "Fireworks" and "Pink USA." For one of the themes, we created these nude leggings made from tulle and embroidered them with crystals — the boots turned into these leggings all the way up the leg. There were furry, laced-up boots and suede, bohemian Coachella-inspired boots. We did mosaic-laid suede that was shown during the "Exotic Butterflies" section. They were just a work of art. When you see them on the runway, it's all cutouts, patchwork and inlaid with different pieces. It was definitely an exciting experience.
Were there any designs from the show that you're interested in offering up for retail?
If Victoria's Secret makes and sells their own diamond bra, then we'll have to. (Laughs) I don't see a huge line of customers buying $30,000 boots, but who knows? People were dying over the butterfly boots. Everyone wants something that's very limited-edition and those are definitely limited-edition.
The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show airs tonight, Tuesday at 10/9 p.m. CST on CBS.
For more 2015 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show coverage, check out the full model lineup, every single runway look, the 13 models making their Victoria's Secret debut and the most candid, slightly absurd moments seen backstage.