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“We’ve had a hard year,” said Christopher Kane of his “crash and repair” SS16 collection, which examined both physical carnage and mental recuperation. The 33-year-old and his sister, and creative partner, Tammy, lost their mother days before their AW15 collection in February, opened a first store in London and started working with a new chief executive. It’s been a year of brutal pressure and bruising pain and the pair had worked through a lot of their emotion in the “art therapy” of the design room.
On the catwalk, the crashes were vivid: Kane had sprayed car paint on fabric to be reproduced in Italy on acid-coloured dresses; a globular print on white leather had an iridescent swirl that recalled the rainbow optics of an oil spill. Black crepe silk gowns and trousers had jagged cut-outs and angular cutaways; Kane’s signature laces were fractured into shard-like patchworks. They weren’t neon though. “No neon,” he corrected editors of his technicolour palette. “This time they’re all acid colours.”
Many familiar motifs were here: Kane’s safety buckle, for example, was strapped across fuchsia, blue and orange trainers; pockets and inserts were made in Kane’s favourite acetone; plasticky layers of gauze shimmered over skirts and tops with a tell-tale colour trim. There were the usual perversions also: was that coat yellow python or printed vinyl? Kane had used both; a clever way of reinforcing some of the show’s more expensive ideas at a more commercially accessible price point. Kane’s Kering backing is teaching him new tricks . . .
There were new ideas here too. A “chaotic stitch work” fidgeted over sweaters and blouses as though embroidered by an unstable hand. And he had used fringing for the first time, “because I’ve never done it before and I wanted to see if I could make it less va va”. He could: a fabulous pair of black trousers were excited by canary yellow trim.
Most arresting, literally and metaphorically, were the cable ties used throughout. The harsh plastic wires were tied around the wrists or neck, or used to gather silk dresses and skirts. It was an exercise of “elegant restraint”. Kane had been looking at the world around his Hackney studio and the plastic handcuffs had seemed a perfect metaphor. He’s now trying to work out how he might work them into an accessories collection: here, they were hacked off the body straight after the show.
It was a bold, brave, brilliant collection. Colourful, vivid and strangely chic. Its muse, said Kane, was a woman he and Tammy had known in youth. “She was an outsider,” said Kane, “and she was damaged.” He paused. “But she always looked great.”