Fashion & Beauty / Culture Talks

Christopher Kane's Ode to the Glasgow Four

The designer talks us through his patriotic play on the art and style of Scotland's key design movement

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Christopher Kane Resort 18Photography by Laurence Ellis

For his Resort 2018 collection, Christopher Kane plundered inspiration from one the biggest decorative arts movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: The Glasgow Four. Fusing influences such as Celtic Revival, the Arts and Crafts Movement and Japonisme, said four – Margaret MacDonald; her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh; her sister Frances and Frances’ husband Herbert Macnair – influenced design movements across Europe with their stylised marriage of right angles and floral motifs. Exhibiting their work in both London and Vienna along with painting schools the Glasgow Boys and Glasgow Girls, the influence of the Glasgow Style spread far and wide, inspiring both the Vienna Secession and Art Nouveau movements.

Being a patriotic lad who hails from the small, suburban town of Newarthill just outside Glasgow, Kane proudly recalled the movement’s impact when he stumbled across a photo of the four. Pooling touches of their fin de siècle feathers, frills and “very Pre-Raphaelite” lace together with a touch of his “domestic working class roots” (Mickey Mouse prints and nationalistic football knits) and repeats of a graphic, Mackintosh-inspired lattice print, Kane served to further celebrate the collective’s legacy. The group’s dandy-esque style comes through the collection by way of overblown peter pan collars and feathery flourishes in Powerpuff Girl bubblegum hues, while natty cardigans are thrown over delicate gowns and hardy lengths of metal chain operate as belts, necklaces and trims. As per, Kane weaves together threads of his pop culture-reared adolescence with elegant artistry and offers a covetable capsule of party-perfect pieces. Here, he talks AnOther through his key references...

Christopher Kane on the Glasgow Four...
“The Glasgow Four had a very romantic and decorative approach that influenced the art world. They came across as outsiders as they preferred to work closely with each other, and their work wasn’t really celebrated in Britain until years later when the wave of Art Nouveau took over the art and design world. They then became sort of celebrities in the art world. I have always been fond of the outsider art movement and I suppose they had that feel to their work as no one had ever really seen it before.”

On studying Charles Rennie Mackintosh...
“Charles Rennie Mackintosh was properly introduced to me in high school but I can always remember seeing bad copies of his work made into jewellery that you could buy from your high street jewellery shop. I suppose all the tacky merchandise put me off until later when I started to appreciate his style when I would attend life drawing at the Glasgow Art School. I really love that building. It really stands out in the city. He and his fellow three, alongside the Glasgow Boys, had a rebellious nature that I will always admire.”

On the Glasgow Four’s style...
“At a time in Scotland when industry was starting to take over, they stood their ground and created art built on craft, beauty and nature. When I see old photographs of them, especially the picture titled The Immortals, you get a real sense of their style with the ruffles and lace, very Pre-Raphaelite, quite dandy, but also really forward-thinking in their choices.”

On their impact on the collection...
“I suppose [the impact is] the strong graphic nature of Mackintosh’s work mixed with the feminine touch of his wife Margaret, who really spearheaded the movement and really isn’t given enough credit. I used some motifs from the archive and added some lace and ruffles to give a nod to Scottish dressing-up. This is the first time I have used such a bold reference of the Royal Stewart tartan. I wasn’t entirely driven by them in every sense of the collection, but I loved the history and story they had to tell.”

On Mackintosh’s Hill House, the location for the shoot...
“It’s a very beautiful building, probably one of the finest works from Mackintosh. It really lent itself to the clothes and built a real sense of character and story. Walter Blackie the publisher commissioned the house and he sounds like a man with remarkable taste.”

On his Scottish heritage...
“My Scottish history and upbringing always inspires my work every season, from big to small details. It doesn’t always come across as literal as tartan but a plastic rain mac evokes the memory of my aunts, or my fascination with TV as child has been an endless source of inspiration for me.”

Christopher Kane Resort 2018 hits stores mid-November.

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