"She's a bit of a twisted sister, I suppose," said Christopher Kane of the girl he had in mind while designing his collection, thinking over the somber colors and the Natural Born Killers soundtrack that played through his Fall show. It was a slightly disconcerting shift to see the young designer who first hit headlines with a rainbow of neon-bright sexy dresses turning to gray and black, flat lace-ups, and tartan cashmere, and even apparently referencing the black-and-white grid patterns of fellow Glaswegian Charles Rennie Mackintosh in his graphic, ribbon-appliquéd dresses. Yet young designers are meant to surprise and change. If there was a new sense of street reality in the shearling-and-leather motorcycle jacket, the boyish trousers, and the first appearance of Christopher Kane tailoring in charcoal cashmere, he made it look refreshing. It was as cool as any hip girl could want, yet in that short opening passage, Kane also widened the collection to include other, more grown-up women who are always on the lookout for a perfectly tailored classic jacket (especially if it has Savile Row credentials, as this one does, courtesy of a collaboration with Norton & Sons).
As for the dresses, Kane can apparently do no wrong either technically or in the eyes of the audience he's attracting, whatever the cost of the handcrafting involved. What he achieved in appliquéing this collection's stripes on organza, making the geometry intersect in blocks or spiral around skirts and sometimes break into vertical ripples in hemlines, is extraordinary. (For the record, Kane said Rennie Mackintosh never entered his head while he was designing; it was more the stripes on a blank TV screen that started him off.) Most interesting, though, is the point Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter was making outside his show. The organza scalloped dresses from Kane's Spring collection sold out on her site three times within a couple of weeks of delivery. "What we're noticing is that women who like Oscar de la Renta are also happy to buy Christopher, because they like its femininity and quality," she said, "as well as the cachet of discovering someone new." Somehow, Kane's creating a crossover product that is going places no one would ever imagine a young London designer could reach.