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At London Fashion Week, it has been emotional. The female muse has enjoyed the technicolour flush of a rodeo romance at Mary Katrantzou, sleepwalked around her subconscious at Alexander McQueen, and poured her best self into a moving performance at Erdem. At Christopher Kane, she was no longer on the periphery of her psyche, but fully entrapped in her mind. The designer called his collection “lost and found”, and dedicated it to the hoarders and compulsive collectors who stand outside society. “Beauty expired”, as Kane called it. “And those outsiders with a unique point of view.”
For AW16, Kane exalted the everyday. A caramel, pleated leather coat was corrugated to look like cardboard, worn with a huge tote bag, twisted plastic rain bonnet and “rubbish shoes” covered in net. Trinkets and charms were strewn about the body, and puffy pastel feathers fluffed around trims and ankles. Many of the clothes had a stripe motif, to represent the jail of her own making, said Kane. “You always hear that, ‘she’s strong, and she’s a genius’,” said Kane of the women who ordinarily inspire designers, “she’s just stuck in the wrong time.”
And she was surprisingly glamorous. “Oh yes! Super glamorous,” said Kane.
Lest this all sounds a bit Pseud’s Corner, let’s be clear, this was a very clean collection which cleverly absorbed motifs Kane has long been working with. Floral photo-prints, like those he explored for Resort 13, bloomed on pretty silk slip and robe dresses. Many of his thematic embroideries and appliqués, had been handed to the Lesage atelier in Paris, and made more luxe. Chantilly lace, a key Kane signature, had been felted and faded out of recognition.
The Kering-owned label has been working hard, along with chief executive Sarah Crook, to develop new categories and brand codes within the 10-year-old house. It has launched handbags, a shoe line and a Mount Street store. This collection developed those features, and then threw in some more — jewellery, crochet brooches, charm pins and new bag shapes. Kane had even created a new logo, the letter “K” rewritten in an oldie wordie typeface that cocked a snook at all those more established brands who love to emphasise their long histories and vast archives.
Despite this, nothing seemed brand buildy here. Kane’s collection felt individual and authentic. Just like his outsider muse, his point of view remains impressively uncluttered. He’s also nonconformist when it comes to the adoption of a “see now buy now” approach. “I can’t compete with the high street,” he explained after the show. “I don’t want to. Maybe we should switch it around a bit. But I have wholesalers who I need to keep up. I rely on my wholesalers. I think it’s just a shame stuff doesn’t stay in the shops for a bit longer instead.”