From Issue 48 of Ten Men: Preston’s Own Boy by Ted Stansfield
You have to admit it, most fashion designers share a similar story. And it goes something like this: he/ she is a bit of an oddball as a kid, discovers fashion magazines in their early-to-mid teens, proceeds to flourish in art at school and make brave (and regrettable) style choices, before applying to Central Saint Martins. They are duly accepted at Saint Martins, find themselves in a sanctuary among fellow oddballs and spend the next three years making even braver style choices, partying and developing a deep appreciation for the work of John Galliano – particularly his collections for Dior and particularly the Egypt collection, which had the Beyoncé soundtrack. Jacob Kane, however, does not share this story. His is more unusual.
“I wasn’t one of these guys who was reading Vogue at five years old,” says the designer, who is now 23. “I was never designing outfits as a kid.” We meet Kane at his home in the suburbs of Preston, where he lives with his mum, a healthcare assistant, and his sister, while his dad, a loft converter, is just 20 minutes down the road. Tall, muscular and still wearing his gym gear, he’s just finished a session at his local gym, where he works part-time as a fitness instructor. He’s warm and chatty, speaking with a soft Lancashire accent.
“Initially, the dream was to be a professional athlete, because that was a massive part of growing up, in terms of training and my identity,” he says. “But as I grew older it became apparent that, while I was a good runner, I wasn’t a great runner, and I was never going to be in the Olympics,” he says, with a slight hint of sadness. “So I started to look into other things that I enjoyed doing, like drawing.”
As well as drawing, Kane developed an interest in clothes, taking inspiration for his personal style from American rappers such as Chris Brown and Tyga, and ordering clothes from streetwear websites based in the US. “For a while I was dressing quite differently from what everyone else would dress like in Preston,” he recalls. “In London I wouldn’t stand out, but in Preston I definitely did. I remember for a while I’d have this Game Boy and I’d tie string around it and wear it around my neck, with a snapback and knee-high socks and Nike Blazers. It was really Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, really ’90s. I was younger then, had my high-top. That’s how I came into fashion.”
While he may have worn a DIY Game Boy necklace at the weekend, he spent his weekdays wearing something entirely different: tailcoats and “spongebag” trousers. After receiving his primary and secondary education locally, Kane was awarded a scholarship to Eton College and spent the last two years of school trussed up in the institution’s infamous (if starchy) uniform and playing sport in the shadow of Windsor Castle. After Eton, Kane returned North to do a foundation at the Leeds College of Art, before heading 50 miles west to study fashion design at the Manchester School of Art. It was here, during his final year, that he was awarded a BA scholarship by the British Fashion Council and decided to found his namesake label.
Describing his clothes as “a uniform for modern youth”, Kane’s designs straddle that zeitgeisty line between luxury and streetwear. He takes pieces from the young man’s uniform – jackets, hoodies, T-shirts and caps – and gently subverts them (by mixing denim and technical materials, for example), while keeping them wearable. It’s an aesthetic that was inspired and later consolidated by the designer Christopher Shannon, with whom he completed a three-month-long internship – an experience that he describes as “invaluable”.
During this time, he not only helped out with pattern cutting andsampling, but learnt about the actual running of the business, too. This was especially important to Kane, who is focused on turning his brand into a viable form of income, as well as a respected label. He wants to create clothes that appeal and, crucially, are worn by real people.
“I’d love to walk down the street, whether in London or Paris, and see people wearing my stuff. Or Preston,” he says with a laugh. “Though there’s maybe not the same market for it here.” That said, Kane has succeeded in winning over some of his friends in Preston, who usually stick to a fairly rigid uniform of gym gear, like he’s wearing today, or skinny jeans and tight tees. After seeing Kane modelling some of his designs on a night out, they apparently inundated him with requests.
It’s a similar story on Instagram, where he’s constantly receiving requests via direct message. Kane is savvy in his use of the app, not only using it to showcase his designs to his 18,600 (at the time of writing) followers, but to understand this audience and what they want. While established fashion brands are still grappling with the social-media revolution, struggling to reach the next generation of consumers, Kane is already doing it. Why? Because he’s part of that generation and speaks their language as naturally as he’s talking to us today.
When it comes to his business model, Kane’s approach is similarly current: he looks to the likes of Supreme, Palace and Gosha Rubchinskiy who, instead of releasing a collection biannually, drop their products more regularly – in Supreme’s case, every Thursday. “I’m interested in mixing a traditional fashion business model and a streetwear model,” he says. “The streetwear model speaks to this generation in terms of buying. People want something new all the time, they’re always looking for new products. To drip-feed the collection out to them might be a more successful way to go.”
In terms of his inspirations, Kane works by constantly photographing and taking screenshots of things, be it a piece of art or something in the street, printing them out and putting them in a folder to which he will continually refer. A graphic in his latest (SS19) collection, for example, was inspired by a sticker he saw on a police car. Based around denim, which is panelled and mixed with technical fabrics, this collection is rendered in a palette of black, grey and white, with flashes of red, cobalt blue, “safety orange” as he calls it, and neon pink and green. It also features the slogan “Illusions of Ecstasy”, which he came across during his research.
Despite a growing brand – and even meeting former Ten Men cover star David Beckham and British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful in May – he’s not tempted to leave Preston, where he works from a converted garage in his mum’s garden. “It’s home. I love the familiarity, and the people feel a bit friendlier,” he says with a smile. Aside from that, it’s a lot more affordable and makes much more financial sense. But Kane is not alone in choosing to work outside the capital: more and more young designers are choosing to do so. Matty Bovan has returned to his hometown of York, while Rottingdean Bazaar’s James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks are operating, as their name suggests, out of the village of Rottingdean on the south coast.
Speaking to Kane, it’s impossible not to respect his work ethic and ambition. As well as Raf Simons, he cites billionaires Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon) as inspirations, saying simply, “If they can do it, why can’t I? They’ve got the same hours in the day that I have, so if I put the hours in and work hard, there’s nothing to say I can’t get to the same level. It’s better to aim for 100 and reach 90 than aim for 80 and reach 70, if you will. I’d rather give it all I’ve got. If I fall slightly short, at least I gave it a shot.”
Photograph by Kaine Hill