BY LAURIE BROOKINS | October 7, 2013 | Style & Beauty
Suede pump with black ruffle ($895).
For shoes that some would call works of art, the shop at Wynn Las Vegas has a gallery vibe.
Black mesh and rabbit fur tall boots ($1,910).
Kirkwood fan Sarah Jessica Parker.
With celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and Kristen Wiig among his burgeoning fan base, is any further proof required that British-born Nicholas Kirkwood has taken his rightful place in the pantheon of A-list shoe designers? Indeed, in stylish circles, the Kirkwood name is mentioned with as much enthusiasm as Louboutin and Choo, Blahnik and Zanotti—which makes the opening of his Las Vegas boutique, only his second in the US after his shop in New York, all the more noteworthy.
Kirkwood’s 1,400-square-foot store, which debuted earlier this year at Wynn Las Vegas, represents the latest move in a carefully mapped growth strategy. “We liked the idea that in Las Vegas it’s a whole new audience almost every week, and not just from the US, but people from all over the world,” says Kirkwood, who launched his label in 2005. “We thought that was great for us in terms of brand awareness. And then, of course, there’s a certain taste level associated with Wynn, an international reputation of being high-end. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly, but when the offer came up, it was one we didn’t need to mull over too much.”
The bright, posh-meets-practical space, with its gallery-like vibe, proves to be an ideal showcase for his highly sculptural, Italian-made styles. “I wanted something a bit light—that was important to me,” Kirkwood says of the chic white space. “I wanted there to be a lightness that felt a bit like an art gallery, but not as stark as a gallery. If you look closely, it’s actually a very subtle mix of whites to prevent it from feeling too monolithic. And of course the lack of color in the store allows the shoes to be the color, to really be the center of attention. Our New York store has a bit more of an industrial feel about it; this feels a bit more polished, a higher standard of finish, more evolved. Of course, in New York we also have a skylight. At Wynn, I couldn’t have a skylight unless I broke through the 44 stories above.”
Color, texture, and Kirkwood’s love of architectural detail take center stage in his Fall collection, as in the signature backward-placed platform in a mirrored-gold mosaic finish on a black-lace ankle boot, and the flurry of a pleated frill that snakes down the back of a stiletto heel. In the years before he introduced his own label, he apprenticed under milliner Philip Treacy, resulting in a foundation that explains Kirkwood’s appreciation for unexpected details, as in his boldly striped chevron pumps in brilliant color mixes (think of lime-green and brown zigzags topping a red heel) or the oversize pearl hidden on the underside of a pearl-trimmed black suede pump. “For fall, there was almost a sense of using couture materials and trims, pearls and lace and embroideries, and then taking classic ideas and reinterpreting them in modern silhouettes,” he says.
The Wynn boutique also features a few exclusive, limited-edition styles, Kirkwood adds, including a pointed-toe pump—without question the hot shoe silhouette for fall—with a pleated black frill above a metal stiletto heel and a spray of gold Swarovski Elements splashed across the toe, a design Kirkwood is offering in ocean blue, strawberry, and black. “A woman walking into the store usually does so because she’s drawn to that beautiful color,” he says, “but you have to have plenty of black on hand, especially in a city like Las Vegas, which is so ruled by its nightlife.”
This fall has also seen the debut of Kirkwood’s first men’s collection, inspired by the thought that he was crafting shoes for himself before he ventured into women’s designs. How might the adventurous feel about the impact of his women’s collection on his men’s shoes? “I want them to be kind of cool and feel a bit forward in their thinking, and yet not too fussy—for the boyfriend of the girl who wears my shoes, I think they’ll be just right,” he says, pointing to black leather loafers subtly adorned with diminutive gold studs, as well as more high-wattage examples, such as oxfords in mirror-like silver. Ultimately, in this city that loves its entrance-making, notice-me experiences, Kirkwood’s aesthetic may have just found its perfect home, he says. “You don’t open a store so it can be a museum. You want to see the shoes worn, see how women respond to them and walk in them. It’s been an education, that’s for certain, but one that’s been great for us.” Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-3543
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE MARSLAND/WIREIMAGE (KIRKWOOD); JEFF GREEN PHOTOGRAPHY (STORE); FRED DUVAL/FLIMMAGIC (PARKER); COURTESY OF NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD (SHOES)