Christopher Kane’s early fashion education famously came by way of TV and, fresh from graduation, he smashed onto the scene with a provocative debut collection. 13 years on, the designer still has an extraordinary ability to change the agenda by thinking outside of ‘the box’.
He’s been given many labels – precocious, gifted, fashion’s brightest star – but there really is no way to define Christopher Kane. He is course the designer who, in Spring/Summer 2006, aged just 26, showcased a line of neon-bright, itsy-bitsy bandage dresses at London Fashion Week. The provocative debut collection offered a new, powered-up femininity - and the Central Saint Martins alumni has enraptured his audience every season since; delivering innovative, unexpected collections that challenge attitudes and test creative limits.
In contrast to his spot-lit position in the fashion landscape, Kane was raised in the small village of Newarthill, Motherwell surrounded by a close-knit, heavily female “liberal” family who gave him “an education in characters and personalities.” He always knew he wasn’t in Scotland for the long haul though: “As much as I loved my childhood I was planning my exit strategy from home since I was about 10,” he tells us from his east London studio. “I just felt different and knew I wanted to see more in the world.”
An interest in drawing led Kane to discover he had a talent for sketching nudes – which is perhaps why he is so expert at celebrating the female form. He was also a TV obsessive, tuning in to a wealth of shows that allowed him to “time travel” and explore new horizons. But most importantly, TV introduced him to fashion: “I didn’t really know what a fashion designer was or did until I discovered TV programmes like The Clothes Show and Fashion TV,” he says. “It opened up a whole new world that I didn’t know existed and I knew immediately that I was destined to be a fashion designer. I was obsessed and recorded everything on VHS tapes. I can still recall the feeling of knowing that was my destiny, it was so poignant.”
"I didn’t really know what a fashion designer was or did until I discovered TV programmes like The Clothes Show and Fashion TV."
His eyes opened, there was no going back - Kane became determined to study at Central Saint Martins, even if it seemed an unlikely path for him to follow. Encouraged by his sister Tammy, who would later become his business partner, model and muse, Kane found his way to the prestigious London college where he studied under the late Professor Louise Wilson. “Tammy and I knew we would work together some day and were always very close and alike. We collaborated very early on, she would help me with art work and vice versa, and she encouraged me to follow my dream of studying at Central Saint Martins. We moved to London together when I turned 18 to study, while she worked part time as an intern at designers like Russel Sage.”
The key to Kane’s success today is his extraordinary ability to keep changing the agenda. “Curious by nature”, he finds inspiration in the “oddest of places without even looking for it.” As for TV, it’s still his “favourite thing”.