Lane was a member of the New York art staff on Vogue, before going on to design footwear for Delman Shoes between 1956-58 and for the New York branch of Christian Dior from 1958 to 1963, where he trained under Roger Vivier.
Lane was one of the subjects of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests (where, in a film taken in 1966, he represented "high fashion").Through Warhol he met Nicola Weymouth, an English socialite who became his wife in 1974. They divorced in 1977.
Since 1977 his home in Manhattan has been a duplex in the Stanford White mansion completed in 1892 and one of the few surviving mansions on Park Avenue. From 1923–1977 it served as the home of the Advertising Club. At that time it was converted into a cooperative apartment house. His living room is the former club library and features an original marble mantelpiece, original artwork and lamps designed by Robert Denning of Denning & Fourcade.
Lane started designing jewelry and launched his business in 1963 whilst producing bejeweled footwear for Dior and Arnold Scaasi. He first came to public attention after Jo Hughes, a fashion industry insider, showed some of his designs to Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, who bought several pieces and recommended him to her friends. As both costume jewellery and society reporting were popular at the time, press reports of this incident launched Lane's business. His talent at copying high end jewelry from a quick glimpse proved popular, his clients proudly wearing the faux pieces. Jacqueline Kennedy was among those who commissioned fake jewels from Lane in order to enable her to wear them more freely while keeping the valuable originals in a safe.
Writing for The New York Times at the time of Truman Capote's Black and White Ball in 1966, Marilyn Bender reported that the "most important men in a fashionable woman's life were her hairdresser, her make-up artist and Kenneth Jay Lane." Lane's bold designs, despite being made using rhinestones and faux gems, were hugely popular with a fashionable clientele that could have afforded authentic jewels; while stylists used them to complement the fashionable large hairstyles, short skirts and kaftans in fashion photographs. As a person, Lane was not simply a good-looking young jewelry designer, but with his elegance and wit, he was "the perfect extra man" for parties, which led to his being invited to Capote's famous ball.
In 1966 Lane was awarded a special Coty Award for his jewelry design. He also won the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1968. Other awards received in the 1960s include the Tobé Coburn award (1966), the Harper's Bazaar International award (1967), the Maremodo di Capri-Tiberio d'Oro award (1967), and the Swarovski award (1969). In 1990 he won the Brides award.
In addition to his American establishment, Lane had boutiques in London and Paris.
He has created designs for Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Vreeland, and Audrey Hepburn, among many other high profile clients. More recently in 2011, Britney Spearsand Nicole Richie have been seen wearing Lane jewelry. The Duchess of Windsor was rumoured to have been buried wearing one of his belts. Barbara Bushwore one of his three-strand faux pearl necklaces to her husband's inaugural ball.
In 1993, the year Lane commemorated the 30th anniversary of his founding, The New York Times compared him to Coco Chanel for having successfully made faux jewelry chic, noting that unlike Chanel's wealthy clientéle, his rather more affordable designs were accessible to a far wider audience. Lane also established a presence as a vendor of jewelry on the cable television home-shopping network QVC, his twice-a-month four-hour appearances in 1997 each taking $1.5 million.
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