If Max Kibardin had to dress for success, he’d probably put on a pair of ostrich-skin oxfords similar to the pale grey and pink ones he created for spring/summer ’10. The look may sound a touch niche, but that’s because the Siberian-born designer is not afraid of a specially targeted market aesthetic—even if that includes his own personal design desires.
In hindsight, Kibardin’s career path wasn’t such a given. Though always fashionably inclined, he first studied architecture before turning to modeling gigs, and later working with Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld. With the success of an it was only natural that Kibardin would in turn begin designing for fashionable men—including himself. A chance meeting with Prada execs got the ball rolling, but they advised him to make shoes rather than clothes, to which Kibardin, the grandson of a cobbler, eagerly obliged. The resulting output combines the detail-driven, mathematical approach of his architecture background with the balance of fashion and function that his design pursuits have yielded.
Kibardin’s debut two years ago caught the discerning eyes of Stefano Tonchi, Franca Sozzani and Sarah Lerfel, all of whom served as judges on the panel for Alta Roma’s inaugural “Who Is On Next?” men’s fashion competition. Handpicked from seven finalists, Kibardin deservingly took home top honors for best accessories collection. By Spring of 2009, his wares had received attention in countless editorial spreads, Saks exclusives and even a partnership with Furla. That his shoes remain a go-to for in-the-know fashion editors and pop stars alike is a further testament to their unique appeal. Kibardin consistently manages to strike the proper balance between youthful vigor and sophisticated chic, aided in large part by his deft use of bold hues and artisanal detail. Take two vertiginous purple peep-toes from s/s ’10, for example: metallic appliquéd satin heels and sleek, perforated leather booties connote playfulness as well as precision.
Kibardin has further translated this quality to his men’s footwear, creating what he describes as a “modern dandy look.” Loafers are fashioned from emerald alligator-embossed leather; tassels and fringe adorn powdery suede loafers and slip-ons; woven satin lace-ups appear in black as well as electric blue and lemon yellow. “It’s about updating classics, using sophisticated colors and unusual materials,” he explains. By co-opting the casual and infusing it with a little luxe, Kibardin has created an elegant, dynamic collection for the well-shod customer, somebody he describes as “young, fun and cool”—in other words, someone very much like the designer himself.