“She’s a girl named Kate who thinks she’s really great, but she’s not.” The wonderful song that soundtracked Christopher Kane’s show today was by Chandra Oppenheim, whose single, edgy 1980 release has become a lost nugget of post-punk gold. Chandra was 12 at the time, which surely qualifies her as a child prodigy. That’s a category in which Kane can match her, on one level at least (although he’ll be a great big kid forever). His huge new collection was yet one more geyser of creativity, a spill of ideas that prodded fashion forward in unanticipated new ways. And if the spill was toxic at times, that was simply a measure of his limitless imagination. For every light, there’s a shadow. And vice versa.
There was a lot of that in this collection. The vice was humble black nylon; the versa, lustrous mink. Together—fur lining a nylon coat, for instance—they made the most provocative statement about the fetishistic heart of fashion that we’ve seen in many a dark moon. Kane toys with desire in ways that unsettle. You’ll hear women talking about how impossible it is to resist his clothes. His recent collaboration for Love magazine with Japanese eroticist Nobuyoshi Araki possibly infected this collection. The nylon was initially used as an almost military accent—there was even a quilted nylon “life preserver”—but it transmogrified into something more perverse: a ruffle on a skirt, a harness-like bodice, a lace-trimmed petticoat. A chunk of black PVC in the middle of it all was like a huge exclamation mark, adding heft to the elevation of nylon.
But the thing about Kane is that his collections are never just about this. There is also that…and that…and that. As one story was poking you, another was insinuating itself, the nylon hybridizing with guipure lace and fur; a linear scattering of crystals running like LED lights up and down a gorgeous double-breasted coat in ice pink; knits that were oddly evocative of an uptight Victorian blouse, except that they were in the sickest shades of yellow or Pepto-Bismol pink. One of Kane’s signatures is mad science. The reproductive botanicals of his Spring collection were echoed in the lenticular imagery that he slotted into tops and skirts. This effect alone was so peculiar that you couldn’t even imagine it occurring to any other designer. It was promptly followed by pieces whose “sleeves” looked like sinuous Plasticine forms into which the models’ arms were inserted. The creation of new forms is a challenge for designers in any discipline. Kane leaves us with indelible new images from every collection.
This time, he saved the best for last. Kane said he’d been looking for a different way to treat organza. His solution? Dresses composed of fifty dark-trimmed leaves of the fabric, ruffling like the pages of a book in a dulcet breeze. Sculptural, ethereal…there may have been a hint of the unsung Roman couturier Roberto Capucci. But the vortices created by the dresses in movement were pure, mad-scientific Christopher Kane.