Christopher Kane

Occupation: Fashion designer

Inspirations:

I always think of people I met in Scotland. I came across people from my hometown - really eccentric people - funny, humorous and really generous. I grew up around lovely people, and I always remember them and think about them in my collections.

Words of advice:

It's hard to be creative every day of your life. Sometimes you just need to stop giving yourself such a hard time. You really need to step back sometimes and look at the bigger picture. I enjoy a little TV time. I watch everything from documentaries to reality shows - anything that can allow me to just switch off and not think about work.

 

A fresh graduate from Central Saint Martins almost 10 years ago, Christopher Kane started his namesake label in a studio bedroom in east London. Today, Kane has earned a well-deserved seat in fashion's major league.

Backed by industry conglomerate Kering, Kane's label is stocked by prestigious retailers across the globe. In March, his first standalone store opened in the heart of London, neighbouring the stores of Lanvin and Balenciaga. "I didn't expect all this [when I first started]," says the Scottish-born, London-based designer. "I was very lucky. That said, we also worked really hard."

Joining Kering - which boasts a luxury fashion brand portfolio that includes Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and well-established British labels such as Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen - has been a turning point for Kane's career.

"Now we have a team [working on business and operation], so I can concentrate on being creative," Kane says. "We used to be very hands-on. It actually felt strange when we were able to delegate responsibilities to others, but we really liked it." With Kering's support since 2013, Kane has also expanded product offerings into leather goods and accessories. Despite the collaboration, Kane says the operation is still fundamentally family-oriented. The creative backbone revolves around him and his elder sister Tammy, who studied at the Scottish College of Textile Design.

"[The synergy] is very important," Kane says. "We've worked so closely together since we were both very young. I need to feel that our creative process stays natural and organic." Kering boss François Pinault gets it, Kane adds. "He really understands the creative process and how that is the whole point [for designers] to be devoted to."

One of the most original designers of his time, Kane has never shied away from being different. His 2006 graduation collection consisted of barely-there lace dresses embellished with brass rings. The looks were edgy yet commercially sound.

The collection not only won him the Harrods Design Award - which came with a showpiece window at the prestigious department store and a cash reward - but also caught the attention of Donatella Versace, who asked him to work on Versace's atelier couture collection.

Launching his own namesake label soon after graduation, Kane's debut presentation at London Fashion Week sent models wrapped in body-con, neon-coloured bondage dresses with ultrafeminine laces, embellishments and quirky safety-buckle details - which became a recurring motif that he continues to reference in new collections.

His unique approach, despite the tweaking each season, is still at the core of his designs.

Kane's autumn/winter 2015 series, titled "Lover's Lace", was inspired by his sketches of nudes. In fact, Kane enlisted his creative team for a night of life sketching with a group of dancers for the creation of that season's designs.

He celebrated the arrival of the collection in his Mayfair store during London's Frieze Art Fair with another life-sketching session at which nude models posed in front of a stellar list of guests-turned-accidental-artists including Salma Hayek, Daisy Lowe and Atlanta de Cadenet.

"I've always loved life drawings," Kane says. "I was excited and scared to do it in the store because no one had really done it before.

"[The set-up] was all based on the beautiful and romantic notion of life drawings. It's also just great to see how people freaked out a little bit about 'naked bodies' at first."

There's no recess for Kane's interest in art in the spring/summer season next year. Pops of colour and patchworks that seem to have been randomly distributed were in fact carefully designed and painstakingly executed with great finesse, knowledge and experience. The collection, "Crash and Repair", is strongly charged with emotions.

In the past year, Kane lost both his mother and his mentor at Central Saint Martins.

"The collection is very personal," Kane says. "We looked at a lot of influences, especially outside arts in the eyes of the mentally ill. People who are not so in touch with the world of fashion sometimes have this innate sense of creativity. How they have overcome these challenges with their illness and their work was just phenomenal."

To get work done, Kane says, he needs to first get into the "zone".

"You always have to get into the character," he says. "I have to try to think about a person - in some strange way - and then be really spontaneous with this collection and be very emotive at the same time, and always try to speak with the clothes."

The pursuit of a career in fashion was deeply rooted in Kane's DNA from early on. Citing fashion TV as his first exposure to the field, Kane says going to Central Saint Martins was a childhood dream come true.

"It's the school that John Galliano and Alexander McQueen went to, and that's where I wanted to go," Kane says. "So I worked hard, and luckily I got in."

His sister Tammy has been a driving force behind the label. Their synergy propelled each other to work harder towards their goal.

"We've always been good friends as well as good [siblings]," Kane says. "We don't always agree with each other. We can have a little phase but then when the work is over, like every brother and sister, there's always a dynamic."

With many of his peers now being tapped to join heritage luxury maisons, Kane says he'd like to keep that option open.

"You never know," he says. "I'm very happy right now to just build my own brand. It's been great the past 10 years, and I'm looking forward to the next 10 great years."