Christopher Kane: Distinction by Design

By Sotheby's

Christopher Kane is one of the brightest young talents in fashion. The Scottish-born designer was spotted while still a student: his graduate degree show at Central Saint Martins in 2006 won him awards as well as instant attention from Donatella Versace, who took him on as the designer of Versace's sister line, Versus. Today, Kane is exclusively focused on his own globally-renowned brand. Ahead of his appearance at Art Out Loud festival on 23 September, he spoke to us about his inspirations and rise to fame. 


Sotheby's: As a boy growing up in suburban Glasgow, you demonstrated a gift for drawing. Why did you decide to study fashion, and not become an artist?

Christopher Kane: I always liked to draw as a child. I mostly drew bodies, and would then add clothing. I didn't really know what a fashion designer was or did — until I discovered TV programmes like The Clothes Show and Fashion TV. It opened up a whole new world that I didn't know existed. I knew immediately that I was destined to be a fashion designer: it was very clear to me. From that time onward, I prepared for going to Central Saint Martins.

S: Would you say that your Scottish roots influence your designs? 

CK: My Scottish history and upbringing always inspire my work, from big to small details. It doesn't always come across as literally as tartan, but a plastic rain mac evokes the memory of my aunts, for example. My fascination with television as a child has also been an endless source of inspiration. 


S: How important a role has your sister Tammy played in building and sustaining the Christopher Kane brand? 

CK: Tammy is by my side at every stage of the design process. We do everything together, and always have, since we started the business in Dalston Lane together.  We are very close and alike. She is straight-talking, and tells me exactly what she thinks without hesitation, which is always good, and much needed, as I often have a hundred more ideas than what I need.

S: Your fashion house is now majority-owned by the Kering Group. Why have a big shareholder? 

CK: We were self-funding for the first six years of the business. We were very creative financially to get to that point, but then we had to admit that we had reached a point where we were not able to sustain the growth. We basically hit a glass ceiling, and it was frustrating. Kering has the expertise and experience to help us build the Christopher Kane brand globally.


S: You've spoken about how the fast pace of fashion makes it an increasingly difficult profession. Why? 

CK: I recall, when my mother passed away, that I just had to keep going…factories and mills have to keep getting their orders. So at times like that, it can be very challenging.  On the other hand, I've been doing this for just over ten years, and you get used to the speed and timings.  You have to be very prepared to work hard, especially if you have your own business, as you can never really switch off, even when you take a holiday. In saying all of that, I don't take what I've got for granted. I am from a working-class family with a very hard-core work ethic. I probably wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have my work.


S: Have you drawn influence from the work of other designers that came before you? 

CK: My work isn't influenced by anyone else's work. I design in an instinctive way; I can be influenced by anything from a TV show, a film, or a swatch of fabric. I am very careful not to reference or copy other designers' work. I believe in my own ideas, and find it embarrassing when I see other designers copying another's work. Of course, I admire many designers working today: Miuccia Prada, Azzedine Alaïa, Nicolas Ghesquière, Donatella Versace, Rei Kawakubo, Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons… and many more.

S: Where would you like to be in 10 years? 

CK: I would like to still be loving and enjoying what I do, as I have done for the past 10 years.


Christopher Kane will appear in conversation with Sarah Mower MBE at Art Out Loud at 12pm on 23 September, on the South Lawn. You can book tickets here.

Art Out Loud runs from 22—24 September 2017 at Chatsworth House, and is proudly sponsored by Sotheby's.

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