Paintings Christopher Kane created during lockdown became the basis for a pared-back Spring/Summer 2021 offering, presented via a series of images and an exhibition in the designer’s Mount Street store
There are certain things you might expect to see in a Christopher Kane collection. The Glaswegian designer is acclaimed for how he explores sex, subversion and fetish in his designs, be that through a deep dive into ecosexuality (Spring/Summer 2020), a celebration of kink via ‘looners’, ‘rubberists’ and ‘sploshers’ (Autumn/Winter 2019), or repurposing images and slogans from the radical 1970s book The Joy of Sex (Autumn/Winter 2018, which in turn spawned the cult and covetable More Joy capsule collections). Kane’s is a playful and dizzying world, honed alongside his sister and business partner Tammy since they launched the Christopher Kane label in 2006.
For Spring/Summer 2021, however, Kane’s usual design timeline was interrupted by lockdown brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. It made for a season unlike any other: during lockdown, Kane turned to painting “to pass the time”, and the works he made with acrylics, glue and glitter eventually became the basis for his S/S21 collection, presented this afternoon via a series of images and a filmed conversation with Kirsty Wark on London Fashion Week’s digital hub. For Kane, isolation led to introspection, making for a highly personal and intricate collection which doubles as a document of his own experience of lockdown. The clothing and paintings will be exhibited in Christopher Kane’s flagship store on Mount Street, in a show entitled Home Alone.
The paintings – some glitter portraits of ‘Brats’ and members of Kane’s family, others larger “mindscapes” incorporating stripes, shapes and splatters of paint – became an obsession for Kane during lockdown, and he recalls how creating glitter portraits harks back to being a teenager and drawing his mum. It’s these works that take centre stage this season; the designer describes the one-of-a-kind pieces in the collection as “extensions of the paintings”. Garments are screen-printed, digitally printed or hand-painted with splatters of paint and glitter, simple silhouettes boosted by an uplifting riot of colours and textures. From freewheeling patterns to thick hand-painted stripes, shirts, jackets, skirts and dresses are reimaginings of Kane’s paintings. “The paintings are sticky, messy and the outcome always uncertain, I think that’s why I love it so much,” the designer writes in notes accompanying the collection.
“The pandemic has completely changed the business and Tammy and I as people, naturally that seeps into every aspect of the design process and the clothes,” Kane tells AnOther. A smaller collection – 19 looks, where previous seasons have seen Kane present upwards of 60 – signals a change for the designer, who explains that “every part of the process has been reduced and/or modified”. Not least having to depart from the usual runway show, which Kane has staged since his label’s beginnings. “In some respect it feels good to do something new, to step out of groundhog day,” he says. “I am enjoying myself at the moment, I am up for the challenges and changes.” Here, following its presentation on London Fashion Week’s digital hub, Kane explains the story behind his Spring/Summer 2021 collection in his own words.
“I started painting in April to pass the time and haven’t stopped. I had no idea when I started painting that they would become the textiles and prints for S/S21. The paintings are glimpses of my mind from that moment in time. They are a combination of memories, feelings of boredom, joy, fear, exhilaration. I didn’t want to be influenced by how anyone else was reacting to the pandemic – I looked inwards for inspiration. I had to feel it myself, so in a way, I collaborated with myself.
“For the first time in my career the clothes are not the focus of the collection, the paintings came first and then the clothes followed – the art dictated the silhouette. I wanted the clothes to be reflections of the paintings. What I would say is the paintings I did in the first month hold a lot of emotion. I haven’t properly painted since foundation year at Central Saint Martins or since high school … they are intense, to me anyway.
“It has been a total change from the way I’ve designed collections for the past 14 years. Every part of the process has been reduced and modified. For example, the first thing we do is create a colour card, and this time I painted not knowing the paintings would be the colour card. My studio team has been limited due to furlough and redundancies, so it didn’t make sense to sketch loads of designs and produce lots of clothes. I used a handful of fabrics and materials for the clothes. In some respect the restrictions have been liberating.
“The pandemic has completely changed the business and Tammy and I as people, naturally that seeps into every aspect of the design process and the clothes. In this case, I started making these clothes three weeks ago. It reminded me of when we first started the business and had no idea of what we were doing until about a month before the show. We really thrive when we can be reactive. If anything, I see all of this is an opportunity to change how we work. Things I felt passionate about a year ago now seem superficial. I felt no pressure at all to produce clothes that have to sell in high quantities, I just did what I wanted. This collection is a step forward – a new chapter for me, Tammy, and our business.
“I realise that my strength lies in reduction rather than excess. That’s on a personal and professional level. We buy because we love to surround ourselves with things that make us feel happy or look great. I think the pandemic has altered everyone’s position on consumerism – as someone who sells clothes for a living, I am reviewing how much output is necessary to have a successful business.
“I want to offer clothes that are forever timeless pieces that mark a moment in time for the customer. [If the collection had a message, it would be] resilience. When everything was stripped away – studio, redundancies, assistants, pattern cutters – we all got on with it and made something really special and unique. That is what Christopher Kane is all about.”
Home Alone opens to the public at Christopher Kane, Mount Street, from September 22 – 25, 2020. Guests are invited to book a time slot by emailing email@example.com, allowing the team to control numbers and ensure the event remains Covid secure.