Speaking with Christopher Kane on the telephone feels more like reminiscing with an old friend than chatting with one of the biggest names in fashion. He laughs often and speaks in exclamations as he discusses the collections and moments that have helped build his brand into the fashion powerhouse that it’s become today as he marks its 10th anniversary. “Honestly,” he exclaims (but we already believe him), “it’s been the most amazing and enjoyable 10 years, and I still love my job. It’s the best job, and I’ve met the most amazing people. There’s so much talent in this industry.”
Here, he tells us about why he chose to celebrate 10 years by creating CK 10 Capsule, a collection of sweatshirts featuring some of his most iconic motifs.
The Window: Happy 10-year anniversary! Tell us why you decided to celebrate the millstone with this capsule collection?
Christopher Kane: There’s been so much anticipation around 10 years and this and that, but I really wanted to do something quiet. It was also about doing something that felt quite respectful as a nod to the past and what I’ve done, what’s become iconic. I started thinking about the emblems or symbols that really identified the brand. At first we were thinking of creating a T-shirt, but it’s too casual, so we landed on the elevated sweatshirt. You can wear it to a cocktail party with tuxedo trousers or just with jeans, and it’s totally unisex.
Was it hard to choose which themes to include?
It was pretty obvious which prints stood out. Immediately I thought about the monkey and the sex education one. It was really hard to pick, because every season adds to my experience and is a labor of love. I’m a big storyteller, and there’s always a background.
You’ve been able to do something that’s very hard to achieve—create recognizable, instantly iconic prints. What do you think makes something iconic?
You see, when I go to fashion shows, I see people wearing my old collections, and it still looks really good. I think when people buy my clothes, they really keep them for a long time and continue to find new ways to wear them. When I think back to collections from other designers that I think are iconic, it really comes down to an emotional feeling. It conjures a time and a memory. Clothing to me tells a story. I can always think of what I was wearing at different times and places. Something iconic is classic and memorable.
What do you think has changed the most about you in the last 10 years?
I think I’ve really relaxed and matured in the sense that I’m more willing than ever to learn and change—as well as to be unafraid. As a business, you really have to know what you believe in and stand by it. If you can do this, you’ll deliver something that’s different than everything else, and that’s your selling point. Point of view is priceless.
What’s a milestone that sticks out from the last decade?
I think one thing that stands out is when my mom died two years ago, and I presented my collection two days later. For me, that’s one of my proudest moments. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it for her. It will always resonate as a collection that was for her. She was so supportive of me and the brand from the start, so it was really special.
Speaking of family, you work closely with your sister Tammy—what’s that like?
I’m obsessed with her! I’m so lucky—she’s just an amazing, one-of-a-kind person. She’s my rock, and I’ll be forever grateful to her. She’s five years older, so when she was high school I was mesmerized as I watched her dressing up for dates with boys and stuff. Her ‘90s style was really cool and opened my eyes.
What’s quintessentially Scottish about you and the label?
I think we Scots have a really strong work ethic, because in Scotland you work really hard to get anywhere. Also, a sense of humor is so important. Everyone works really hard, but they still smile and laugh. Scotland has the most crazy, wonderful, down-to-earth people. I go back as often as I can.
The label was born in London though—how is that part of the DNA?
I moved here when I was 17 because it was the hub for the big designers. I was so obsessed with the creativity in art, music, and fashion that this city offers. People here have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to be themselves, so that really drew me in. There’s a weird energy here that really works. It’s totally different than Scotland—I was shocked when I arrived. I’m inspired every single morning when I walk to work and see something totally weird and surprising on the way.
Is inspiration something you seek or something that comes to you easily?
My eyes are always completely open. I’m inspired by just about everything: art, film, T.V. I’m an open book! At Central Saint Martins, I learned that there’s no such thing as good or bad taste; things are just different. You’re getting so much visual information to digest so quickly these days that sometimes you don’t even have time to have an opinion—just go with the flow. Your instincts are so important. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.