Recently, I’ve felt called to go back to my roots. To satisfy what my inner child has always truly craved: fashion. I don’t believe anyone has ever had a truly smooth relationship with fashion. It’s one of those industries and one of those passions that can’t ever be tamed. But it is what it is, I’ve always known that. I never truly lost my appetite as a fashion journalist but there were certainly times of it blazing out of control and others where I couldn’t even light a spark. It’s scary to come back to something you’ve had on the back-burner for so long and there’s fears around every corner. But to deny myself even the possibility of finding joy in fashion again is something I have no business in suppressing. I have no expectation to where this curiosity is headed and I don’t quite know how I’ll gracefully bridge the pieces of my fashionable soul and spiritual heart together, but I thought I’d start here.
If you’ve read my July Editor’s Letter, you’ll be aware that as of this month - for the rest of the year, I’m opening up the Hook Archives. Once a month, I’ll be posting one archived interview with a high-profile fashion designer or industry professional. You’ll not only be able to indulge in some of my most telling, most juicy interviews but also explore and see how the history of Hook Magazine has unfolded to be where we are today.
I’m so excited for you all to read the first interview I am sharing in this series. Its with a designer I hold close to my heart, who I’ve met many times and have always been blown away by his down-to-earth nature as a now global superstar. The following interview is from my first meeting with the Scottish-born designer Christopher Kane, from 2015. I hope you’ll enjoy reading his story and continue to follow me as I venture down memory lane…
In Conversation with Christopher Kane - 21/05/15
Over the last 10 years, Scottish-born, Christopher Kane has acquired a fairy godmother in Anna Wintour, a wacky but wise Aunt in Donatella Versace and placed his family tree under the umbrella of multi-billion pound stake holding company Kering. To the masses that still score Kane under ‘emerging designer’, his achievements, close industry relationships and quite frankly, knowledge suggest otherwise completely.
Coming from a small town where no one really understands the wall of thorns you have to chop down to reach Central Saint Martins; it made it an even bigger climb. “ No one really knew the importance of Saint Martins…You always got this image of McQueen, Galliano and Hussein - so this was the image I was fed and became addicted to. It was the world I wanted.” After working his heart out, he received a place on the foundation course at 17 - before going on to study the BA and MA in Fashion Design. “I was one of the lucky ones,” he mused.
Walking into an eerie interview room with the Late Louise Wilson sat in a cloud of cigarette smoke like a still from a Film Noir black and white, saying ‘“I hope you’re not like the Dolce and Gabbana that was in here earlier’” - Kane recalled he was “literally terrified.” Having absolutely nothing to worry about, the two got on and “she offered me a spot within 20 minutes,” said Kane.
“Louise was fundamental in making my career,” he proclaimed. But Louise was just the beginning of a long line of industry greats lending a helping hand to Kane. “Anna’s been a huge maverick for me from the very beginning” - on American Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour. “She’s always been a supporter and I can always call on her for things. Also she helped with the process of investment.” In regards to the investment which now stands as the Kering Group having owned 51% of Christopher Kane for the past six seasons, he commented: “Anna again came to the rescue and introduced me to François (CEO of Kering) and other investors.” Wintour opened doors for Kane that were still naive dreams for his peers at the same early stage of their careers, but it was Kane himself that leapt through those doors with ambition and courage. Which is when Donatella Versace made her first entrance…
“I got offered a job and turned it down,” he said, on Versace. “I’d been offered Topshop Newgen which is amazing cos they pay for your show and it was such a good thing to do and I just had to grab it.” Talk about the work all coming at once. A young, overwhelmed Christopher Kane told Donatella: “I’d love to work for you but just not in that capacity, can we do something else?” Erm, balls or what?! Again, it seemed to work in the same way meeting Louise Wilson for the first time did - Kane began doing a lot of consulting for Versace. “I did Versace Couture, I did accessories, I did mainline and it was back and forth from Milan.” He also spoke about being fortunate enough to see the Versace archive. “It was incredible holding couture gowns that Madonna had worn and there were like…sweat marks,” he said reluctantly laughing. It’s a hard life, eh, Christopher?
Fast forward to present day, the brand has just launched it’s website which is a tech showcase of recent seasons and is scientifically and clinically fashionable - also a reflection of the newly opened Flagship store on Mount Street. “Everyone just expects 'bang bang',” on only just launching a website and feeling the pressure to launch e-commerce. “It’s not like that. Behind the scenes there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It’s my business and my choice and I don’t need to do it all at once,” Kane goes on…"This whole world of this fast pace fashion has really obliviated the process. It’s just ‘instant instant, want want’. Which is great, but we really have to speed up because there’s so many collections now,” he explains. With a total of 6 womenswear collections and 2 menswear collections a year, let alone the many collaborations and new projects - it’s not a surprise that this capitalism of ‘fast fashion’ is a problem and more so, exhausting. “I still sketch everything, which is really hard. It is really hard to be creative everyday, I’m not going to lie,” he sincerely spoke. “Sometimes it’s torture, it’s mental torture. Some days you just need to walk away and leave it and then it comes,” said Kane - like a bird teaching its offspring the ways of life.
Although being creative everyday sometimes leaves a huge hole of tiresome frustration, it leaves behind an irreplaceable archive of work that can forever be looked back upon and reflected on. Christopher Kane has a whole 10 years worth of archive to root back through when he’s lost his appetite for creation. “Every season I go back to old seasons and cherry pick. It’s good to always go back to go forward,” he explained. Kane is persistent with this way of working which gives an internal interlink between all of his collections, whether we as the consumer or he as the designer quite realise or not. Every season we see something completely different and completely unique come down the catwalk, but it always has that Kane stamp - we now know why. Despite this, I asked him what his personal favourite collection had been: “Spring/Summer 08 with the chiffon frills. It was so beautiful and light,” he mused. “We used snakeskin and people are like ‘oh, so vulgar’, but actually it’s one of the most powerful animals in the world and you can’t deny it’s historical context.” He did seem rather smitten with that particularly collection, explaining him and his sister Tammy worked so closely on it together, it always brings back memories and he always goes back to it every season for reference. “Not necessarily for frills or any of that,” he added, “but it was just a feeling.” He also wasn’t short on telling me how he sewed most of those dresses and how it took a very long time.
Obviously aware of Kane’s impact on British fashion before meeting him, I came away charmed with how down to earth he was for someone who is achieving more and more by the day. He is a realest and an artist - that although states he never has any time to see exhibitions, carries this flutter of poetic imagination and talent wherever his career takes him.