Christopher and Tammy Kane on Not Being Inspired

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Self-portrait and portrait of Tammy by Christopher Kane
Self-portrait and portrait of Tammy by Christopher Kane

The brother and sister behind the Christopher Kane label discuss their new, unlikely source of inspiration: the idea of the void, of the unknown

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.

“The idea of not being inspired by anything is really quite inspiring. Sometimes, even with collections, we have to make up the inspiration. Which we hate doing, because it then feels so contrived and people label it with that, and then you’re like, ‘Oh God, that’s our fault because we gave them that.’ There is a pressure to always have this inspiration and sometimes you just don’t, and that’s OK.

“We’re actually being very resourceful again. There’s that whole idea of restriction being great because it brings out creativity. We’ve got time on our side, but not the resources – factories are closed, pattern cutters aren’t working. We’re kind of making ends meet and it’s exciting.

“We’re inspired by the idea of the void, of the unknown. Who knows what we’ll be doing a few months from now? We’re guessing. It’s so scary but it’s also quite exciting for all of us, not having this constant idea of the new. We say this all the time – we’re not moaning – but we read the other day that Picasso took ten years to create a painting. We are given three months to do a collection that is hugely critical, hugely commercial, has to sell. It has to be everything, on all levels. Now we’re like, ‘Actually why don’t we just do it and hope that people buy it, and not worry about pleasing everyone on the planet?’ Because that’s just not going to happen.

“Everyone in fashion is talking about how they’re going to change, but are still doing the same things. We don’t want to be on the same calendar, following the same routine again, because that’s how we got into this position before Covid-19. So that has inspired us, finding a new way of doing things, the challenge of making it work for us – not because it has to be, say, in a magazine to be shot on a model. We’re doing personal projects, personal things that are going to really make a difference to our lives. Obviously we want a business – but from that good stuff you do get great ideas in business. It’s like going back to the bedroom, where we started. It was personal projects that got us on this road in the first place, extraordinarily.

“It makes it interesting, that’s what’s inspiring. Whatever it is you choose – painting, sculpture – it’s another medium, it keeps you interested as a person. You can rediscover things that you loved as a kid and just be free. Which is hard in this business, isn’t it? Because you can never have freedom if you’re always seeking approval.

“We can only speak for ourselves, but I think most designers would say that the industry forces creativity. This has been a time of going, ‘Oh my God, this feels like being a student again.’ We’ve got time – we say that, but in reality we’ve got tons of deadlines – but we’re trying to approach it from a different point of view. The pandemic could bring out so much creativity – and we hope it does, because when there have been other pandemics, or a war or a cultural event, things have been really quite amazing afterwards.

“But what we’ve noticed is people are just going back to the old routines. That’s not inspiring – we’re not going to be blinkered because, for us, this is a golden opportunity to really knock things up and be radical, and if you don’t like it, then bye-bye. We don’t need to please anyone. If you don’t like it, go and buy something else.”

Christopher and Tammy Kane come as a pair: the brother and sister founded the Christopher Kane label in 2006, creating their first catwalk and commercial collection in a small flat in Dalston, London, mostly made out of fluorescent elastic and stretch lingerie lace. In the 15 years since, the siblings’ brand has become a creative lynchpin of London’s fashion scene, with wildly diverse and highly influential collections. In September, for Spring/Summer 2021, the Kanes presented a 16-look collection of one-off pieces dripped with paint and splattered with glitter, inspired by artworks executed by Christopher during lockdown, including the two shown here. Those unique pieces became the basis for this small capsule collection, commercial yet retaining a sense of the handmade. “I don’t want to please the world,” Christopher says. “I just want to please enough.”

This article originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale from 8 April, 2021. Pre-order a copy here and sign up for free access to the issue here.