For Christopher Kane, the global pandemic was a time to reflect back to his days before designing his namesake line, collaborating with Manolo Blahnik, and being named designer of the year by the British Fashion Council just 12 months after graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2011. The London-based Scottish designer got his start studying fine art—and painting became a way to soothe his nerves in quarantine. “I always loved drawing and painting,” Kane told W. “But as your business grows, you just don’t have any time for personal development and hobbies.”
Born and raised in Newarthill, Scotland, the designer, known for his womenswear label’s well-constructed and innovative aesthetic, grew up as an artistic child in a family that supported his creativity. And although it had been nearly 16 years since Kane picked up a paintbrush, the British capital’s nationwide lockdown in 2020 presented challenge after challenge, leaving the 38-year-old feeling down—but at the same time, inspired. (“It was a hard time, and we’ve all had a bit of a kick up the bum,” he said with a laugh.) So he began painting with acrylics, and even a touch of glitter here and there.
Kane says it can take anywhere from one hour to even a couple of days to finish a painting. He prefers to either work in his garden or in his workshop in East London, alongside his Boston Terrier dog Bruce and while listening to music or audiobooks on art or film.
“Those works reflect my mental state,” Kane said of his latest paintings. “I’ve always loved strong, unpredictable women. I’ve always loved survival and nature. I was just drawing what was in my head and that was really beautiful.” As for the glittery women he’s painted in bold colors: “They’re slightly demonic and they are very unhinged. They are naked, they have the boobies out, or their private parts out.”
Kane sees his paintings as an outlet, not necessarily a moneymaking opportunity. While he has received requests about selling his works, he is still undecided—although he recently donated some of his paintings for a special charity auction. “I have many people asking to buy it, but I have not sold a piece yet,” said Kane, adding that he wouldn’t be opposed to potentially putting his works on sale in the future. “Never say never.”
He has, however, gifted some of his artwork to various people in the fashion industry. “I painted a portrait of Donatella [Versace],” Kane said. “It was not on the scale of how I usually paint. It was more of a portrait and she was in a glitter finish. She loved it.”
If the pandemic and subsequent lockdown had not happened, the designer said he probably would have worked on multiple collections and loads of products. But the time off from creating for his label gave him an opportunity to reflect on what fashion was before 2020. “It wasn’t very healthy, and I think that’s something I want to change going forward. I want to accommodate myself, I want to be happy again,” he said. “I want to enjoy what I’m doing and not feel pressured to be in the hamster wheel season after season, product after product.
“We were in a really unhealthy place before the pandemic,” Kane added. “You just fall into this process and lose touch on why you’re doing it, why you love fashion.”