a quick chat about the joy of sex with christopher kane
The designer has staged an exhibition of original prints from the sex manual that inspired his autumn/winter 18 collection.
Christopher Kane autumn/winter 18. Photography Mitchell Sams
When The Joy of Sex was first published in 1972 it caused controversy, but also became a #1 bestseller, and the illustrations by Chris Foss and Charles Raymond became iconic. The book formed part of the inspiration for designer Christopher Kane’s incredible autumn/winter 18 collection, which took us on a tour through empowered, sexy, dressing, putting primness and kinkiness together. “Sex is human behaviour, and it's fascinating,” Christopher explained to us at the time. “And sex, well, it can be fun? You know?” We know.
But some of the most knockout looks from the show saw Christopher turn directly to Chris Foss’ illustrations, printing them across dresses. And now Christopher has staged an exhibition in his Mount Street flagship store of those works, putting the influences next to the inspirations. We caught up with Christopher to talk about The Joy of Sex…
Hey Christopher, how are you today?
Frazzled but good. The sun is shining so that’s always nice.
When did you first discover The Joy of Sex ?
I’ve known about The Joy of Sex for as long as I can remember. I think maybe at college? I loved the concept, and the illustrations are just beautiful. I’ve always had an attraction to nude portraiture.
Did you work with Chris and Charles at the time of the show? Have you had any feedback from them since?
Not directly, no. My team worked with them in obtaining permission, we focused on the Chris Foss illustrations for prints in the collection. They’ve been incredibly kind in sharing their work, I hope they’re enjoying seeing it out and about. I think the exhibition in the Mount Street store is stunning. I love watching passers by on the street look in and be like… what is that? Haha.
It is quite provocative to place these drawings – some of which are quite explicit – in a retail, rather than gallery, environment?
I can see where you are coming from, but aren’t nudes and pornography in art always provocative? I think this is a bigger question, and it’s more about how our society deals with such things. Unfortunately, I think there will always be a stigma around erotic art. I guess I enjoy being provocative? I embrace all forms of art, I never discriminate.
Would you describe it as political, then, to celebrate sex in times like these? In the same way a book like The Joy of Sex was politically charged in the 70s.
I suppose it could be taken politically. For the record I actually was working with the subject before #TimesUp happened, and on the contrary I think it’s the best time to celebrate sex. Sex should never be taboo, that would be going back in time. I make clothes to empower women especially at times like this.
How did you feel seeing your designs next to the originals, in store? Did it change anything for you about both?
I find it exhilarating, I have so much respect for the artists and to transfer that into clothes that girls want to wear is so rewarding.
What do you like most about the drawings?
I think you get a real sense of real genuine love and affection -- the colours, the fine lines, I find it mesmerising. The other thing is this – I learnt to draw before I could read or write, it’s something I do day in and day out, it’s my form of expression and I guess I like to champion other artists.
The spring/summer 19 collection also featured your own drawings. Did that come from finding inspiration in these works?
No I don’t think so, actually, one day I just started drawing, rather than working on Photoshop. Then one drawing led to another and then another, it was complete chance.
Sex is running through what you do right now. Almost a trilogy of shows about sex, from spring/summer 18 to spring/summer 19, which The Joy of Sex collection sits in the heart of, chronologically – but would you say it does thematically too?
I would agree that The Joy of Sex has been quite pivotal, but sex will forever be a subject that keeps inspiring me. I have explored many sides of sexuality and human behaviour in my work -- the Biology spring/summer 14 collection and autumn/winter 15 Lovers Lace are other examples of how I’ve worked with the human form.
The exhibition is on until 30 October at Christopher Kane’s Mount Street store.