This article originally appeared in 1 Granary Issue 6
Flick through Christopher Kane's graduate collection sketchbook, as seen in 1 Granary's issue 6
Christopher Kane wants to make clothes that last beyond a single season, both in terms of quality and style. That’s why he always asks the same questions: Is this wearable? Do I have something similar in my archive? Have I seen this before? As they work, his sister and business partner Tammy wears a leather blazer from their third collection, made over a decade ago.
Christopher frequented the CSM library as a student, but his current research process revolves more around museums and archives, his own being his favourite. It’s evidence of Louise Wilson’s influence: Pinterest is lazy and plagiarism is disrespectful.
Christopher and Tammy do all the drawings, but they have separate designers for knitwear, embroidery, and fabrics. They rely on their team to take a concept and run with it, which helps them push the boundaries of their imagination. He sketches with pen and paper, sticking to the same template he’s used for more than five years now: the pattern-cutters know the proportions already.
Because of factory lead times, they start working on new fabrics a season ahead, customising archive prints, and conjuring new textiles to create something unique. The jelly pieces that first appeared in Christopher’s Fall 2011 collection as coloured liquid encased in silicone have been revamped several times, most recently as biodegradable plastic accents in his exploration of eco-sex. It shows how sustainability has infiltrated his process, but also shows the continuation between his collections, and how revisiting his own archive plays into that.
The siblings’ studio is full of models most days, allowing them to explore ideas in 3D, draping directly onto moving bodies. As soon as fabric samples arrive, they will be turned into toiles, beginning a process of trial and error that rarely involves calico. Fabrics they love as small samples could be totally wrong on a whole dress, and they prefer to find this out sooner rather than later. Christopher loathes wasting people’s time, so he edits the rails heavily before bringing pattern-cutters in for final fittings.
From here, the whole process is reactive and hands-on. If anything takes more than two fittings, it gets put to one side for a couple of seasons. If it’s too hard, it’s not right for now.