Christopher Kane considers his work to be an extension of himself. But at first glance, he’s shockingly different from his audacious clothes. As one of London’s best new talents, the Scotsman by birth has earned comparisons to Alexander McQueen for his unbridled creativity. Technically, he’s a designer’s designer, using innovative techniques for his eponymous line and the Versace-owned brand Versus (his second job) in such a way that attracts the most serious fashion enthusiasts. And visually, he’s ahead of the curve; his neon collections and series of dresses and T-shirts emblazoned with angry crocodiles and gorillas were game-changers. Kane’s the guy who the coolest, prettiest, most arty fashion editors love to name-drop — a litmus test of sorts for how “with it” you are. And his emotive clothes reveal a sharp wit and humor that you don’t see at every runway show. Yet, his interview answers are surprisingly polite, restrained and sometimes downright airtight. We try to get him to toot his own horn.
Have you always wanted to be a designer? When you were growing up, what was the least fashion-related career goal you had?
I’ve always wanted to work in fashion for as long as I can remember. The moment I realized that you could earn a living as a designer, there was never any other alternative. I became obsessed with fashion [shows] on TV at a young age; I religiously recorded every one so I would never forget my favorite shows.
I can’t think of any other designer who has owned neon the way you have. What is it about the fluorescent colors that grab you?
I can’t explain it, but I just love how it looks. My most memorable memories of neon would be of workmen or my lollipop woman at school in her reflective suit. It always intrigued me.
Are the bold, punk rock aspects of your work a reflection of who you are?
My work is definitely an extension of me; however I don’t think those words are the best description of me. I don’t follow trends — I just do what makes me happy and what satisfies me creatively.
Do you ever feel a certain pressure to create “the new” each season?
I try to put the pressure to one side and focus on what my instincts tell me are the right thing to do. Pressure keeps my focus on the goal of producing a unique collection every season. There’s no room for doubt before a show. Every buyer and critic is different and they all have their own opinions. My show expresses my opinion and my love for clothing and as long as I feel proud after each show then I’m happy.
As someone who balances two design jobs, do you agree when some critics say that the expectations of fashion designers are too high in terms of workload and the fashion calendar?
The expectation is high, but I could not imagine doing anything else. I am thankful that I am able to do a job that I love.
How do you mentally switch gears from working on your own line to working on Versus for Donatella Versace?
Versus has such a rich archive that I can easily get lost in; and of course having Donatella as my boss helps.
What is it like working for her?
She’s truly the most inspiring boss I could have ever hoped for. I am constantly learning from her and having a laugh along the way.
If you weren’t designing fashion, what would you be doing for a living right now?
Perhaps styling or photography. Truthfully, though, I could not imagine my life not involving the design process.
If you could pinpoint a pivotal moment in your career so far, what would it be?
I am about to celebrate five years of having my own label. That in itself is pivotal to me.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Junk TV, if I ever find the time to watch it. I’m hooked on the latest season of “True Blood.”