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Checking in With Christopher Kane

The British designer, in New York to present his first collection for J Brand, talks about expansion, fashion — and being a TV junkie.

It’s going to be quite a busy few days for Christopher Kane. After landing in New York on Tuesday in time for the Versace for H&M bash, the London-based designer is presenting his first collection for J Brand at a bloggers’ breakfast at Barneys New York this morning, followed by a dinner hosted by Jeff Rudes, J Brand’s chief executive officer, and Vogue’s Meredith Melling Burke, at Freemans restaurant tonight.

This story first appeared in the November 10, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In between it all, he’s still managed some personal time. On Wednesday morning, for instance, the Glasgow native woke up early to take a stroll in Central Park. “I brought sunshine with me, though I don’t know from where, and certainly not London,” said Kane, sitting in the restaurant of the Carlyle hotel, his home until Sunday. “I love New York. It feels like you’re on a movie set. I know it’s such a cliché to say it, but for someone coming from Scotland and living in London, there is nothing quite like it.”

Kane, 29, is part of a crop of designers who have played an instrumental role in bringing a renewed sense of excitement to London fashion. He launched his own line for spring 2007 and now sells it globally to 200-plus stores, with sales reaching just more than $4 million last year. And coupled with his much-acclaimed partnership with Donatella Versace for Versus, his fashion profile is on the rise.

Kane credits his recent collaborations for helping him hone his experience. “I learned a lot working for Donatella and for such a huge fashion house,” Kane said. “She is really easy to work with. I come in with the ideas, my sketchbook, research and we go through it, one piece at a time, and she always gets it. She is open-minded, and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. It would be great to download her brain, to plug Donatella in and get all her information.”

J Brand, he adds, has given him a strong understanding of the denim market, which he hopes to eventually apply in his own line. “We want to introduce more sportswear into the company and there is no better piece than denim,” Kane said.

But before that, he wants to launch a full handbag collection; he dabbled in the category for fall. “We did a great little liquid clutch reminiscent of pencil cases I had as a kid,” he said. “This made us think that we should build on that platform, and create that bag that is a great classic and can go from season to season.”

And in the next five years, he plans to open his own store and add e-commerce. “We don’t even have a Web site,” he acknowledged. “I’d love to do e-commerce but when I do a Web site, I want it to be really good.”

Given the little free time he has, Kane admits to being quite the television junkie, having grown up on a fashionable diet of “Style With Elsa Klensch,” “Fashion Television” with Jeanne Beker for Fashion TV and BBC’s “The Clothes Show.” These days, he’s into “Breaking Bad,” “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire” and the British miniseries “Downton Abbey,” but even Kane can’t resist a bit more lowbrow fare like British soap “EastEnders” and reality television shows “This Is Essex” and “Made in Chelsea.”

“Sometimes it’s good to sit down and have an out-of-body experience and watch them because you forget about everything else,” he said.

Despite his TV obsessions, he has only begun to focus on outfitting celebrities. “It’s important to get the right people,” he said, citing Carey Mulligan, Chloë Grace Moretz and Alexa Chung as stars he has so far dressed. Kate Middleton is, of course, on Kane’s list, and while he wouldn’t comment on whether he has been approached by her camp, he is full of praise for her look — with one caveat. “It’s a shame she doesn’t wear more designers,” he said. “I don’t really like the High Street getting so much of the credit. I understand that there would be an array because you need to relate to so many people in the market, but she is a princess. If I were a princess, I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, bring it on.’”