There is a select group of designers who are consistently ahead of trends and whose work is avidly followed by the rest of the fashion community. From his first collection Christopher Kane has been a leading force in this elite cadre of style and now that his eponymous label has access to Kering’s deep pockets.
Christopher Kane’s 2015 Resort collection in June this year was a wholehearted embrace of the maxim that “there is no such thing as bad taste, it is only different,” which was a favourite saying of Louis Wilson, Kane’s mentor at Central St. Martins. The show was in some ways a retrospective for this wunderkind of London’s design world, bearing all the hallmarks of his brash ideas and profligate genius.
Some pieces were a homage to the oversized technicolour florals that were so evident in his Spring 2012. Dramatic leopard print replaced the snakeskin of his last autumn collection. There were neons, the defining point of his debut back in 2006 and credited with sparking the ‘flourescent revolution’ of that year. For this collection Kane’s neons featured psychedelic pleats and gothic lace trims. When it comes to Kane’s imagination there is only one direction and one speed. Forward, fast.
Since his graduation from Central St Martins eight years ago, it has seemed that Christopher Kane can do no wrong. The last few years have seen a flourish of successes. His catwalk collections always receive a great reception. His artistic flare, creativity and skill in fusing fabric, colour and print in seemingly impossible combinations mean that his influence on seasonal trends is strong in London and beyond.
Kane is a darling to fashion giants, working closely with Donatella Versace from the beginning of his career and easily winning the blessing of Vogue editor Anna Wintour. In 2013 Kane was named British Designer of the Year and this September he was named Scottish Designer of the Year but the most significant rung on Kane’s ascent came in January 2013.
After months of rumours, the Christopher Kane brand was part-acquired by Kering (previously known as PPR). The deal meant that the luxury holdings conglomerate, that also boasts Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent under its very fashionable umbrella, now owns 51% of the Christopher Kane label.
Since its establishment on his graduation, the Christopher Kane brand had been an intimate family affair. His sister, Tammy Kane, is deputy creative director and had been in charge of the business side of things. Tammy worked in a car showroom whilst she waited for Christopher to finish his studies, and the pair are extremely close.
The part-acquisition was huge news in the industry as the luxury fashion powerhouse took over the direction at a small and daring British label. But Kering does have a history of a penchant for British innovation, acquiring majority shares in both Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen back in 2001.
It was, in fact, Stella McCartney that convinced Kane to accept the partnership. “Looking into Kering’s history of nurturing the creative as well as the commercial side, and talking to Stella McCartney, who said ‘go for it’, it seemed right” Kane says of the deal.
The acquistion was equally praised by the acquirer. Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault celebrated Kane as, “a truly great talent who has shown a real sense of modernity in the way he mixes elegance and subtle constructions.” Pinault explained that Kering had “great ambitions for the brand and will enable it to benefit from our expertise and know-how, while providing the space for it to further develop its own creative identity.”
The sense of freedom to Kane’s creativity was key to the deal, with another positive by Kane being expressed as: “there’s freedom within a framework.” Kering applied a fairly hands off approach for the first few months and allowed them to continue with the studio in Dalston, East London.
Eighteen months down the line, is this freedom of creativity still the case?
Continue reading in the latest Quintessentially Asia.
By Rik Glauert