Kai Kühne's sophomore show offered him the chance to really define his voice, now that the As Four histrionics have abated. He went about it by concentrating on shape and volume, though without forsaking his signature eccentricities. Lantern and bell sleeves, poufs and tulip skirts bloomed throughout the collection, but he showed them on the awkward stems of bow-tied fetish shoes and against an aural backdrop of German heavy metal.
The strengths of this collection were those of his spring presentation: Kühne has a way with a cape-sleeve jacket (rendered for fall in a luxe black angora-cashmere blend), as well as with shirtdresses and jumpsuits. The quality of the craftsmanship was clear throughout, but Kühne, ever exuberant, said that he "wanted life in the construction." This translated, at times, into pieces that were overwrought, like a full bell sleeve accented with accordion pleats. He also showed rather too many variations on the pouf theme.
The most charming version was a soft, floral chiffon with a subtle balloon hem and a sash. A black taffeta tulip dress with an asymmetrical chiffon drape also stood out, and a scene-stealer, in terms of line, was an ensemble of high-waist black pants topped with an off-the-shoulder brown raffia top. Less successful were the shorts and some stiff, gawky blouses. Kühne claims that his designs are driven by his feelings, and this collection found the designer in an expansive mood of creativity. As for his voice? Well, he's still discovering his range.