Sophomore Class: Nicholas Kirkwood’s Second Men’s Collection

Nicholas Kirkwood doesn’t like to waste time. In London last week, the designer previewed his second men’s footwear lineup (Spring/Summer 2014)—the kicker being that his first such collection (Fall/Winter 2013) has yet to reach stores. “We’re waiting for them to hit,” said Kirkwood—with a glimmer of audio-excitement—via telephone from his Mount Street, Mayfair studio.

Given this maestro cobbler’s distinct and very much in demand aesthetic—think Calatravan sculptural grace meets Chalayan-esque challenging tech—he’s got nothing to worry about. Building off his premiere men’s presentation, which blended studded and woven chevrons along dark leather brogues, his sophomore effort promises a lighter and slightly geekier spin—without sacrificing the bold aesthetics for which he’s so renowned with his women’s line, and which he’s started to implement for the boys.

“It was about continuing to look at shape,” said Kirkwood, “but done so in summery materials—raffia, for example, or color-blocked tech fabrics.” A tightly gauged raffia derby, rendered in swimming-pool blue, papaya, and navy with an acidic green trim [above], brilliantly elucidates the designer’s intended balance of impactful yet seasonally appropriate cues.

Another big talking point with Kirkwood Men’s 2.0 is its featherweight bulk and its unstructured gait. “Around a lot of the backs, there’s no stiffness,” he said, “I’ve also done EVA soles—a type of porous rubber—which are super light. The shoes weigh about half of what they normally would.” That portability supports another Kirkwood axiom—high-fashion athleticism, in terms of contour and construct if not necessarily performance.

Kirkwood has a laid-back, though clearly ambitious, trajectory in mind for his hommes collection. Rooting himself in a proverbial middle ground, he’d first like to “build the customer” and then move longitudinally—to both “classic and evening” and “more sporty” arenas. He’s already collaborated on a runway feature—a common practice he’s done with womenswear labels, including Erdem, Peter Pilotto, and Rodarte—with UK menswear designer Lee Roach, and he mentioned a keenness for doing more. But for now, it’s all about making shoes that work and that don’t alienate the potential buyer. “For the women, I want the designs to be exquisite. For the men, it’s kind of wanting to just… be cool.”

Fresh off a press junket in Singapore and Jakarta, Kirkwood doesn’t have any non-work plans until August, when he’ll venture to Patmos, Greece for an employee’s wedding. Fittingly enough, a white mesh leather-lined brogue featured in the collection seems a perfect choice for a Mediterranean, sun-drenched ceremony—an apt reminder Kirkwood Men’s is as charming as it is versatile, just as he wants it.