Christopher Kane

Christopher Kane: “You can’t just put your head down”

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Short Profile

Name: Christopher Kane
DOB: 26 July 1982
Place of birth: Newarthill, Scotland, United Kingdom
Occupation: Fashion designer

Mr. Kane, in your opinion, is this a good time to work in fashion?

Is that your first question? (Laughs) Jesus Christ!

We’ve got to start somewhere!

You actually made me say the Lord’s name in vain right there! (Laughs) Well, it depends who you are in fashion but I still like it. This is the harsh reality: the fashion industry makes £27 billion in London. Just in London! But nobody talks about that, which is really sad. I mean, that's a lot! So, it's a lot of pressure. You have to learn to adapt to that, to evolve to the routine and the cycle of it… You can't just put your head down. I still enjoy it… But all those kids today, they’re all fashion students, and I always think, “I would not want to be you now.”

How come?

These 15 years have been hell! Don’t go into fashion, children! I'm joking, I'm saying that with a smile on my face. Being in college for six years was brilliant. But today is just so different: the expectations, Instagram, you’re so established already and you’re not even in college. It’s a lot of pressure. I think fashion is much more inclusive these days, which is great, because it used to be seen as being very exclusive. On the other hand, that was one of the reasons I loved it! And now that exclusive mystery is lost. The mystery is gone because everyone knows everything!

“I want to see things and learn things. That’s what’s really lost: people don't do proper research anymore.”

Social media has really been a factor in how much brands, and even luxury fashion houses, are opening themselves up to the public.

Exactly. Instagram is great, it’s addictive, we all love it but I'm not going to let my life be dictated by pictures! I want to see things and learn things. That’s what’s really lost: people don't do proper research anymore. What we all used to do at college — well, at least what I used to do — was research, research. You look at a book, you look at books, books, books… Nowadays you just take a screenshot and you're done with your research, you know? You can go on Instagram and there is great imagery but you can guarantee another hundred million people have seen it, so why?

I think Instagram also contributes to how people perceive fashion. 

Right, it’s like the art scene is super serious whereas the fashion scene is considered super silly, it's bullshit. It is really tough and I think it’s a false perception. I think it’s because of that perception that people get into fashion thinking it's going to be all splendid, when actually it's really hardcore. You need to be really ruthless — ruthless and talented and hardworking.

And not just from a wealthy background.

That’s the sad thing as well! I came from a working class background, and luckily my mum and dad were successful in later life so I was supported all the way through, but there are people who don't get that privilege. And that's really, really sad. That’s wrong.

“There were a lot of students who were very wealthy. But they weren't as good as me, so there you go!”

Because in the end money doesn’t buy talent.

Right, some of these kids I went to Saint Martins with would be like, “This fabric is £750 a meter,” and I'm like, “Why? It's a mess.” When I did my graduate collection, I made it out of old stockings and hosiery because that's what I could afford. And it won the award. So, yeah, there were a lot of international students who were very wealthy. But they weren't as good as me, so there you go! You can have all that money, but… You can’t buy that, can you? (Laughs) I sound really precocious saying that, I’m not meaning to be precocious. I just mean that when there’s a will, there's a way.

Being a bit of an outsider definitely worked in your favor.

We were outsiders growing up, yeah. We still are! I don't change, I just get upgraded! When I was doing my Masters, everyone was doing the same Margiela or Helmut Lang look. And I was just sitting around like, “Why are you all doing that stuff that everyone else has done… You’re just copying it and putting your name on it.” And I thought that was not right. If you don't go there and don't take the risk then you're going to be one of those people copying a Comme des Garçons jacket and saying it's yours. You learn so much just being a little bit more creative or brave.

Where did you get that creativity from?

Well, I do think you need to be doubted in order to be creative. But there are so many ways to be creative now, it could be lecture, it could be music, it could be film, kids nowadays are so lucky. I mean think of your sons, they’ve got all the options in the world! There's more options than ever before, so don't spoil them. But really, I just got that creativity from myself, didn’t I? That’s what it is, my childhood landscape was so informative and as your children grow up you give them so much information that will later inform their life.

Is it important that your clothes reflect that?

That’s relative but I do think my clothes are very Christopher Kane, you can spot them a mile away. But for me it’s not about putting out more stuff, it’s about putting out great clothes. That's what I got into the industry for. I grew up looking at amazing designers who did amazing clothes so I respect them and I respect myself not to just throw out stuff. It needs to mean something.

“There's room enough for most of the great clothes and some bad ones as well!”

Does that ever inhibit your creative process?

Well, it's hard to be creative every day. It's a jail sentence. You give yourself so much pressure and heartache to be creative every single hour of the day, sometimes you just need to walk away. And then it just happens. I try to do things because they are instinctive, I don’t push myself. It just naturally comes.

So you’re never in conflict with your own taste?

I was taught that there is no such thing as taste. Things are just different and there’s a customer for anything. I'm looking over there at that t-shirt and I’m wondering would I wear it? No. But that doesn’t mean that somebody else isn't going to love it. I think it can be really quite annoying the idea of being validated by someone saying, “Oh, that's good.” Bullshit. It's personal! There's room enough for everyone. There's room enough for most of the great clothes and some bad ones as well!