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August 22 2014

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131 posts tagged "Christopher Kane"

Roksanda Ilincic Moves In On Mount Street

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Roksanda

Mayfair: the most expensive square on the British Monopoly board. Mount Street: fast replacing Bond Street as the place to shop for the highest of fashions in London. At Number 9 Mount Street, Roksanda Ilincic is stood outside her new, and first, store–looking very beautiful, tall and glamorous as usual, and this is a sloppy, shop-fitting day for her–she is pointing up the road. “There’s Nicholas, and this is where Christopher is going to be and here is me,” she says, counting down from one to the other, genuinely thrilled to be next door-but-one to her friends and fashion peers, Nicholas Kirkwood and Christopher Kane.

Christopher and Tammy Kane are opening their store here later this year, while Jonathan Anderson’s newly logoed Loewe stands across the road. Marking how far this peer group of designers has travelled, by making the journey from Dalston in the Far East to the most Up West location of the lot, the new fashion establishment is well and truly taking over this seemingly most chi-chi part of London. Yet, at the same time, it is also one of the most peculiarly British places in the capital; international, yet strangely traditional, there is a butcher’s shop directly across the road. “Sometimes they have four whole pigs in the window—that’s my favorite shop,” says Ilincic, genuinely impressed by the amount of pigs they can squeeze in that store front. “That and Moynat. You should see the time they take and the detail to make bags, I am obsessed,” she says somewhat more expectedly of the quietly chic, French luxury leather goods house. In her own shop window is a creation by Gary Card, the set designer, which was unveiled yesterday evening. It meets somewhat metaphorically between the two.

Roksanda

It is such weird contradictions that go to make up the character and career of Roksanda Ilincic; so seemingly ethereal and yet, I am told, at times swearing like a sailor when attending football matches, she is always refreshingly down to Earth and always herself. The designer has a superb eye for color and an architectural flair–she originally trained as an architect in her native Belgrade before completing her Fashion MA at London’s Central Saint Martins. Both meet in the interior of her store, designed in conjunction with the internationally renowned architect David Adjaye OBE–his largest commission is the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Needless to say, he is somewhat impressive.

“We designed elements together because I wanted it to feel like an extension of my clothing, not a regular shop,” says the designer. “I studied architecture myself, so whether it is the interior or the detail on a coat in the store, it still has that architectural experience.” Ilincic says this while shifting seamless felt covered doors in characteristic colors from past collections that make up rooms downstairs. “There’s deep purple, lime-yellow, dusty pink, and neutral beige.” The designer has never been afraid of a strong palette and has not shied away from one in the store – yet, as always, it all works.

In the Mount Street location, there will also be a made-to-measure service, specializing in event-wear and wedding dresses, hence all the privacy and secrecy of those seamless doors. This line will carry the designer’s full name. But with the launch of the store there is also an eye on the bigger global market and a slight rebranding for the rest of the ready-to-wear collections: they will now be labeled “Roksanda,” as will the store. “Well, nobody seemed to be able to pronounce Ilincic,” shrugs the designer, disarmingly honest as usual. “And it just looked better graphically.” So with the launch of the store and the single moniker, it appears that the journey from the Far East to the Far West will now be a rapidly expanding global one – coming to a chi-chi shopping street near you.

Photos: Courtesy of Roksanda Ilincic

Louise Wilson to Be Honored With Fashion Fund

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Louise WilsonProfessor Louise Wilson, the inimitable director of the MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins, died earlier this month at age 52. Today, her family released a statement saying that there will be a private funeral for the beloved educator in Scotland, as well as a memorial in London later this year. Furthermore, the statement revealed that a fund “to honor Professor Louise Wilson’s profound belief in access to fashion education” will be established in the near future. Wilson’s fierce dedication to her pupils (including Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll, and more) and their success was one of her most remarkable qualities. Thus, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute than one that will aid the next generation of fashion students, particularly at a time when the cost of a design education in the U.K. is becoming increasingly prohibitive.

Photos: Ian Gavan/ Getty Images

Why I Loved Louise Wilson: Katharine K. Zarrella Remembers What It Was Like to Be Taught by the Fearsome, Brilliant, and Irreplaceable Fashion Educator

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Louise WilsonI woke up to a devastating e-mail from Roger Tredre, my Central Saint Martins graduate tutor, this morning. “Louise Wilson has died,” read the subject line. “This is a great shock,” the message continued. “A very sad day.” Wilson, the revered Central Saint Martins Fashion MA course director, passed away in her sleep on Friday night. She was 52.

It is a sad day. Not only for the Saint Martins students fortunate enough to have been yelled at by the at once feared and adored professor, but for the fashion industry as a whole. Wilson, who was known to have some, let’s call them “unorthodox” teaching methods (screaming profanities was the least of it), helped mold many of the most brilliant design talents of the last twenty years. Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou, and more all at one point stood (and probably cried) in her whitewashed office, the walls of which were covered in thank-you notes from graduates and heavy-hitting designers like Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz. He was a friend of Wilson’s who often came to speak at the school at her request. Such was the irreplaceable educator’s influence in the industry: While she was a force to be reckoned with—and a terrifying one at that—she was beloved by alums and movers and shakers alike. No one said no to Louise Wilson—not because they were afraid to, but because they didn’t want to.

I studied on the journalism pathway of the Central Saint Martins Fashion MA from 2010 until my graduation in 2012. And while I refused to admit it at the time, I was scared shitless of Louise. I remember the first day of my two-year stint at the school, when she walked into a room filled with aspiring journalists and designers and invited them to ask her questions about the course and the industry in general. It took a good while for anyone to come forward, thanks to Wilson’s famously intimidating presence. Eventually, I sheepishly raised my hand and inquired about her thoughts on a pair of American designers who were particularly hot at the moment. She leaned on the desk, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Not much,” before taking the next question.

That was Louise’s way, both in conversation and education. She was refreshingly blunt, funny in the borderline offensive way that only the English can be, and had the ability to teach you more about not only fashion, but life in one terse sentence than most could in a decade. All eight of the students on my course initially thought Louise hated us. And who knows, in the beginning, she may have. She told us that we were “visually blind,” that we spat out too many words without saying anything, and, as a classmate noted today, she taught us that we needed to go to the design studio, not just the classroom, to learn how to be good fashion journalists.

I’ll never forget when I walked into her office to present the first draft of our class newspaper, The Central Saint Martins Journal, which was set to be distributed during the Fall ’12 CSM graduate show at London fashion week. Needless to say, she had her reservations (we were visually blind, after all) and wanted to ensure our work was fit to sit alongside that of her designers. At first, it wasn’t. She told me that the draft looked like a “venereal disease,” and proceeded to scream about writers’ lack of attention to aesthetics and the poor state of journalism for a solid forty-five minutes before dismissing me. After weeks of deliberating and arguing, the class decided that Louise’s disapproval only made us want our paper more.

She was surprised to see us back at her office door two months later, a second draft in hand. With a little guidance, we finally got her stamp of approval (we weren’t allowed to use any images, and our cover was blank, but that’s beside the point), and the final result still sits on my bookshelf. At the CSM show’s after-party, Louise gave me a hug, put her hands on my shoulders, and said, “Did you see it? It was on the seats!” before walking up the stairs of the since-shuttered London outpost of Le Baron nightclub.

That’s another thing about Louise. She didn’t wash her hands of you after you stepped off campus. Until her death, she attended many of her students’ fashion shows—I’d always see her backstage in London offering praise and, sometimes, advice to the likes of Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll, and Simone Rocha. She may have tortured them at Saint Martins, but she was there for them until the end. “She was a truly brilliant teacher because she showed students how to make ordinary work into extraordinary work, and took them on the journey with her,” recalls Tredre. “It was tough love all the way with Louise, but that tough love was, she believed, the best preparation for the real world.”

But it wasn’t just that Louise wanted her students to be prepared for the unforgiving beast that is the fashion industry—she wanted them to put their whole selves, and their best selves, into each stitch of their designs. She hated unnecessary flash; privileged, unwarranted arrogance; and, most of all, laziness. Nothing but heartfelt, sweat-infused perfection was allowed on the CSM fashion week runway. And given the caliber of collections we’ve seen year after year, her high standards paid off.

While I wasn’t as close to Louise as her design students, I still can’t begin to list all that she taught me. We don’t have the bandwidth. One thing I will say, though, is that her approach was flawless. For instance, during my final year, I needed to interview her for a story. She thought my questions were absolute crap and, as punishment, gave me only one-word responses. (Even so, they were some of the best answers I’ve gotten in my journalistic career.) Ever since, when preparing for an interview, I think to myself, Would Louise answer this? before settling on a query.

“There’s a phrase, ‘All fur coat and no knickers,’” Louise told me during a 2011 interview for Style.com. “Saint Martins has always focused on the knickers.” With that in mind, I’d like to say thank you, Louise, for helping me, and so many others, find our knickers.

Photo: Dave M. Benett/ Getty Images

Louise Wilson, R.I.P.

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Louise WilsonProfessor Louise Wilson, the renowned Central Saint Martins Fashion MA course director who launched the careers of former students like Lee Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll, and more recently Simone Rocha and Craig Green, has died. She passed away in her sleep last night while visiting her sister in Scotland. She was 52.

A Saint Martins grad herself (she was lucky enough to have Ossie Clark as her tutor in the eighties), Wilson worked at the London-based college from 1992 through her death, taking a brief hiatus in the late nineties after being headhunted by Donna Karan. She was famed for her brash, often outrageous teaching tactics and outbursts, though her dedication to her students was never questioned—Wilson would consistently go above and beyond to help them grow, succeed, and earn placements at such houses as Lanvin and Balenciaga.

Wilson had been in poor health for some time due to breast cancer. She leaves behind her partner of more than thirty years and their son. Wilson was not only a pillar of the London fashion community—she was a veritable institution and inspiration for designers and fashion lovers worldwide. Many of today’s greatest talents owe her a huge debt of gratitude. She will be sorely missed.

Photos: Ian Gavan/ Getty Images

Christopher Kane on the Agony and the Thrill of Being a Designer and How It’s Changed His Life

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Chris KaneChristopher Kane was drinking green juice at the Carlyle last Tuesday. The designer was Natalie Massenet’s date at the Met Gala the night before and at the Top of the Standard and Up & Down after-parties that followed it. In the eight years since his award-winning graduate Central Saint Martins collection (newsflash, ladies: Those neon-hued bandage dresses might be making a comeback), Kane has become London fashion’s most successful export. Net-a-Porter shipped his clothes to eighty-six countries last year. Eighty-six! 2013 was a big year for him all around: In January, Kering (then PPR) took a majority stake in his business. Remarkably, as this interview shows, he remains one of the most candid, down-to-earth, and downright funny designers around. Before he headed back across the pond to prepare his Resort collection for a presentation next month, he sat down with Style.com to discuss everything from his impressions of Charles James’ gowns (“very sexual”) and his favorite TV show (“Game of Thrones“) to what’s on the docket for the rest of 2014. Look out, Mount Street! Kane’s first store is scheduled to open on the Mayfair thoroughfare in November.

How has the Kering investment changed things for you and your brand?
I’d say we’re now solely doing what we want to do. Before, we were run ragged—we were doing everything from admin to silly things, it was just relentless. It feels [like] I can enjoy myself again. Sometimes it can really take it out of you and you can think, What am I doing? All of a sudden this happened and it’s a huge sigh of relief.

At Net-a-Porter’s dinner for you last week, the site’s president, Alison Loehnis, said they shipped your clothes to eighty-six countries last year. That’s a lot. What are your goals for 2014 in terms of sales, and otherwise?
We’re looking for a new CFO. Our store opening is projected for November in Mount Street [in London]. Mount Street is having a bit of a renaissance. Céline’s just opened. It’s a really nice community of designers and labels, I’m really honored to be on that street. We’ve also launched the handbags, and we have an in-house accessory designer now. Men’s is doing really well, and we’re building more categories within the men’s.

In his recent reviews, Tim Blanks has remarked about the astounding number of ideas that are in your shows. Do you see Kering’s investment and this creative surge going hand in hand?
I’ve always had a huge library of ideas, but it’s so good to have the facilities to do more product categories now, like tailoring and leather goods. If you don’t do it [an idea], someone else might, so I just have to get it out there. I hate an idea to go stagnant, to go a bit smelly. The season I joined Kering, everyone was like, “It’s such a big show, you must’ve gotten so much money.” Actually, that show was produced with the same [amount of] money as the season before. It was just a celebration, it was not about spending a lot of money.

Among the things that resonated on your Fall runway were the nylon and fur pieces. Where did those ideas come from?
I’ve always loved fur, and I suppose with the nylon, it was that outdoor feeling. It feels good, it’s also quite sensual, it’s very like skin. I liked the contrast. There’s also that rich, pure quality. The show was centered around mink and nylon, everything came from there. It started quite clean, and then it becomes who knows? The nylon became ruched, it looked almost like a trash bag, but I liked that. The end dresses were based on books, pages, and things falling. So, a lot going on in that collection.

Christopher Kane

Were you a big reader when you were a kid?
No. I still don’t read now. I wish I was that kind of person, but I’m just not. I’m really impatient. I like the impact of the visual. Growing up, I liked TV.

What were your favorite shows?
The Clothes Show with Jeff Banks—it was a big deal in London. Jeanne Beker on Fashion TV. Even Elsa Klensch. She always made everything really intellectual. I was addicted from there on.

That’s where you discovered Versace?
I used to love watching Versace, and then it became Versace and Helmut Lang. They were my two favorites at different periods in my life. I used to sit and record with a VHS tape and stop and start and write Atelier Versace 1:20 till two minutes…It was like a log. I was nuts.

I think of Versace and Helmut Lang as quite different. Do you see similarities?
I think they were both pushing boundaries, and that’s what they were so good at. I think they’re really similar in that sense. They loved their jobs and you could really see that. They put their hearts and souls in it. Gianni and Donatella, they really stood out because the landscape was quite bleak, whereas they were like, Bam! In your face. Women really wanted to look like that. That power. Helmut had that same vision of these powerful women—to stand out.

Helmut is still so influential.
That’s one thing that I’m always very aware of. If I’m doing anything that looks like something [someone else did], I’m like, “No, out, get it out.” Tammy [Kane's sister and business partner] is always going nuts with me, saying, “No, it doesn’t look like that.” And I’m like, “No, it does,” and I have to scrap it or I can’t move forward. I’m very defensive about it, but you need to be because it’s your work. I’d never want to bastardize someone’s work and take it as my own—it’s destructive.

Other than Versace and Helmut, are there other designers who you admire?
I’m always very focused on what Tammy [and I] are doing. But you can’t help respecting what other designers have done. Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada…and Raf is doing a great job at Dior. Working for Donatella was a highlight. I’ve got respect for everyone. It’s really hard being a designer.

It doesn’t show with you.
That’s funny. I’ve got pictures of myself from five years ago and pictures of myself now, and it’s just like, “Really?” Everything’s changed. Is it because I’m always hunched over my desk? Yeah, I think it’s starting to show. I’ve got a huge plan when I get back to London. Yoga, I’m really loving that again. Being a designer can be agony, but I suppose it’s like being in love. There’s pain, but you love it.

You’ve always struck me as a designer who knows how to balance work with having a good time.
Yeah, that’s why I’m drinking green juice.

How do you explain other big names copying? I think it might be because some designers are removed from the work. They’ve got such big teams.
I just don’t think there’s any excuse. It’s not right. If it not’s OK for a small designer like me, the big brands should be even more conscious of it.

Christopher KaneWhat about the other way around? Do you see trickle-down Christopher Kane ideas?

Everywhere. One collection in particular has always been referenced by a lot of people, and that’s the Spring 2008 collection, the one with the snakeskin, the ruffles, and the denim. That was a time when people were like, “Oh, my God, snakeskin is so cheap.” And I was like, “Really? Really? So that’s why it’s everywhere?” Or neon. When I did neon, everyone was like, “It’s so cheap and nasty.” So that’s why everyone’s doing neon this and neon that. Neon’s the new black. Listen, it’s a fabric, it’s a color, but those collections have been referenced a lot. And my lace and ring dresses from Central Saint Martins, there’s one designer who really rubbed me the wrong way, but I won’t even go near that. They’re my babies—that’s what set me off.

Those dresses made such a mark. What a debut.
I remember doing those dresses and being so terrified to show [my professor] Louise Wilson. I thought she was going to hate them. At college, there are the Comme des Garçons people, the Helmut people, they’re all trying to be that designer, and I’m like, “Why don’t you just be yourself?” That first knit dress was made from stockings and tights that I got in the market because that was all I could afford. I took it in, the model had a robe on. Louise said, “Where the fuck have you been?” That’s how Louise would talk. She said, “What have you got to show me?” The model took off her robe, and—that’s when Louise used to smoke—she took a puff and said, “That’s fucking great. Do another six and come back to me.” She was so tired of seeing the same old rehash of other things. It probably cost about 10 pounds to make. They’re now in cold storage. It’s great to bring them back out. It’s hard sometimes, but I look at them, and I say, “Well, if I could do that then, I can do it now.”

Were those dresses produced? I can’t remember.
Some of them were, yeah. Some of them we did in very small quantities. I think they might be coming back, you never know.

Things move so fast in fashion. Is that difficult for you?
I was really lucky. This whole idea of Resort and Pre-Fall, when we started that was still unknown. We really grew into them. There came a time to do them because we were at the right level, whereas you do feel sorry for some young designers. They run before they can walk because they’re expected to. It’s not fair. It’s hard doing one collection, never mind six. Back then you could have a life. Now it’s like deadline: fabrics. You’re picking fabrics two seasons ahead. You know when you pick something, that color will come up somewhere else and you won’t want to use it, but you’ve got all this fabric. You’re in the hands of the suppliers, basically.

Now that you’re in the position you’re in, what things, if any, do you wish were different about the fashion business?
There’s so many. No, really, we’re really blessed, but being creative is really tough. To be creative every day is brain damaging, you can’t do it. It does really suck it out of you. But the pace is so fast that you have to force yourself. That’s when it’s hard.

What do you like to do on your downtime? TV?
All the time. That’s the only thing I get to do. And that’s why exercise is going to play a big role when I get back. [laughs]. I’m in love with Game of Thrones. I didn’t get to watch Sunday’s episode, though. I was doing Natalie [Massenet]‘s fitting [for the Met Gala], and I kept telling her, “Natalie, we need to hurry up.”

You’re part of a fashion resurgence in London. Do you see people coming up behind you that interest you?
First, I don’t think it’s ever been bad, London. Hussein Chalayan, his shows were groundbreaking. The McQueen and Galliano period. It was always great. Look, there’s lots of good talent everywhere, but London has the best art schools in the world. When I was in Scotland, art was never seen as a career option. London is a very creative city.

Many of your peers in New York have taken over big European design houses. Are there any brands you’d like to put your imprimatur on?
Of course, it’s a dream to have the facilities, but I’m fine [where I am now], I’m still young. I’m quite focused on my brand, and my brand is just as good. I love it. I’ve got enough on my plate right now, that’s an honest answer. But I’m not going to lie, of course. Where would I go? It’s nice to see fashion changing. What Raf’s done at Dior is really brilliant. I think it really needed that, and now it really stands alone. You want to wear it. I love what Alex is doing at Balenciaga, good for him. Hedi Slimane. There’s always a negativity around what he’s doing at Saint Laurent, but I like it. I think he’s really clever and he’s one of the most important designers ever. And Nicolas at Vuitton—it’s Nicolas Ghesquière, how can you not like it?

Last question: What did you think of the Charles James exhibition?
It was very sexual, a lot of the draping and the structures. I don’t think I was the only one who noticed. But the dresses were perfection, you can’t deny it. Dior called him a master, Balenciaga really loved him. In his day, he was the real thing.

Photos: BFAnyc.com; Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com