Favourite collections: Christopher Kane

I haven't had much chance to write anything detailed on this blog for a while, so as my writing comeback of sorts I thought that it would make sense to write about Christopher Kane, as his designs (and Raf Simons’) were what sparked my interest in fashion in the first place. If I had more time, I’d write an article on all 23 of Kane’s womenswear collections (maybe just 22, actually, because SS08 didn’t do anything for me), but instead I’ve had to go through the painful process of creating a really tight edit. The collections below are those which speak to me the most, evoking happy memories as well as general awe. It’s no great coincidence that I’ve warmed to the spring collections more; while for my own wardrobe I favour monochromatic safeness, I love looking at beautiful clothes in the kind of colours I’d never be able to get away with wearing. 


I wrote heaps about this collection ages ago, but it deserves another mention. SS12 had triumphs aplenty, but Kane’s offerings were definitely the greatest. Artists in any field shouldn’t ever have to rein in their creativity, but, these days, fashion designers (particularly those heading up smaller, less financially-stable brands) are under pressure to create clothes with mass-market appeal. If you’re a fresh-faced designer whose income barely covers the rent of your dingy London studio, let alone the materials for your craft, you need your clothes to sell if you want your brand to expand. It’s not rocket science; producing clothes for esoteric interests doesn’t cut it unless you are Hedi Slimane, i.e. rolling in it (in which case you’re absolutely fine — continue to make clothes for your friends in bands that everyone else got over years ago — if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters). So, what made this collection stand out to me was Kane’s ability to pull off what very few designers can: the perfect balance of the commercial and the conceptual. The white shirts, cricket jumpers, boxy schoolgirl skirts and denim pieces are all accessible pieces — women all over can emulate Kane SS12 looks with ease simply by reaching to the back of their wardrobes — and yet there are some elements that just scream ‘expensive’ and ‘creative’ in the way that only runway looks can. The killer cuts, the aluminum-infused organza, the exquisitely detailed embellishment and sequin-lined appliqué… you can’t buy this sort of design complexity in Topshop (not even in the Boutique section, no, even though the brains behind it strive to emulate this sort of class). 
I like this collection for sentimental reasons. SS07 was the season when I first became infatuated with fashion, particularly the young British fashion scene, so please don't think I have an affinity for highlighter-coloured frocks. When you see some perma-tanned party girl spewing up over her fluro pink bandage dress on the Diamond Strip, sticky-soled Office platforms in hand, do you ever wonder if her bold sartorial choices are some sort of working class homage to Kane’s debut collection? Me neither — when she picked up said dress in Quiz that morning, the thought probably never crossed her mind — but it does make you consider this collection’s influence on evening dressing. I loved the Swarvoski detailing on the pieces — a burst of crystals on plain fabric is something of a favourite of mine, having seen it implemented perfectly on a Marios Schwab dress that took centre stage on the cover of Dazed and Confused a few years back. Oh, and that Kane and Versus collaboration? Just look to this collection to see why Donatella picked him to bring new life to her diffusion line.


Like most British girls, my first encounter with gingham was the classic John Lewis easy-iron dress that was a welcome alternative, in the warmer months at primary school, to a black skirt or trousers. In my early teens I would make my own simple 60s-style shift dresses, cutting up gingham cloth in red and blue; it was fine to wear gingham even at that awkward age as, with bundles of innocence coupled with stick-thin limbs and doe eyes, I was deemed 'cute' and 'adorable'. If I wear gingham now, even though my chest is still as flat as the school desks I associate with the fabric, it can feel a bit Lolita-esque. Kane's tackling of  girlie checks was perfect, as he managed to brush away any smutty connotations, instead leaving us with the perfect balance of the pretty and the peverse – a 'good girl gone bad' look, if you like (or bad girl gone good?).


Another fusion of sweet and seedy – seemingly a combination the designer thrives on playing about with – Kane's AW10 offering was a triumph. Admittedly the formula was pretty simple: take some black leather, some black lace, some vampy patent leather lace-up heels and you get, er, something that Rihanna might wear. Throw in some floral embroidery, though, and suddenly 'good' girls like Emma Watson want in too. Not to say that this was any sort of slapdash appliqué job; Kane gave the dying art form of hand-embroidery a new lease of life and, with his daisies, roses, poppies and wildflowers trickling just-so over otherwise sexually-charged PVC, lace and leather, it just looked so right. However, my favourite bits in this collection were the closing pieces, which were embroidered, equally as delicately, with crystals.


I could happily wax lyrical about all of Kane's collections, and you can find my thoughts on his other shows elsewhere on this blog. I was meaning to write about the SS14 collection as soon as I saw it, as it made me swoon in a big way, but I was so busy with work and other real world stuff and never found the time. 
Not that I really need to draw your attention to this collection, anyway, as it went down a storm with the fashion press and certain pieces (read: the logo sweats and flower motifs) have been rehashed to death by the high street. Fair play, I say, it is so dreamy after all. I hate to quote The Devil Wears Prada but, "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking" – though one does imagine Miranda Priestley would eat her words if she saw Kane's take on this ever-enduring spring theme. Elsewhere in London, Mary Katrantzou made her florals embellished and Eudon Choi's were wallpaper-esque, smattered over biker jackets. Christopher Kane, meanwhile, went back to school, taking his botanical imagery straight out of biology textbooks (well, at least someone found them useful...). This resulted in beautiful floral embellishments, complete with blackboard-style pointers and annotations. There was something subtly sexual about the whole affair, too, thanks to the obvious parallels between the dissected flowers and a woman's anatomy. Besides the standout pieces, there were some fluffed-up, spray-painted dresses with holographic tinsel trims, which I really liked. Further evidence of PPR's investment in Kane's brand shined through subtly, too; the now ubiquitous statement sweaters were highly commercial, lower-priced items that were snapped up straight away by young fashion bloggers everywhere, and the slinky evening gowns in silk satin showed a new, more polished side to the London-based designer – dresses like that would look more at home at the shows in Paris and Milan. But, then again, Kane is now no longer 'one to watch' and is up there amongst the big-name designers, so it's not uncomfortable to see him produce such exquisite, sophisticated clothes. 
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