The first sight of what Christopher Kane does always entails a kind of sick stomach lurch, that slight vision-changing nausea brought on by witnessing something cheap and tasteless being transformed into fashion at speed—and not being able to tell quite how you're going to feel about it. This season, it was black leather embroidered with flowers patterned after parochial Women's Institute craftwork that did the queasy job. Spliced together with black lace and tailoring into a peculiarly Kane construct of prim and perverted, it was, in his words, "about a delinquent teenager." But then again, it always is, round here.
The identity of this young woman shifts slightly each season, of course. This time, she started off as a schoolgirl Scots-lassie gone to the bad, a wearer of kilts (a Kane take on the A-line skirt with a flat front and swishy pleats in back) and tarty platform-soled gillies. In the second half, she assimilated the attributes of Priscilla Presley, the 14-year-old bride, decked out in dresses paneled in patent leather studded with multicolored jewels. Looked at closely, the starburst embroideries had double-edged resemblances to Elvis' show costumes on the one hand and church reliquaries on the other. Kane laughed about that: "Well, she was a good Catholic girl, you know!"
As ever, all the references here somehow tie back into Kane's provincial Scottish Catholic upbringing and his bond with his sister Tammy, who he loved to dress to go out when she was a teen. Together, they're now running a mini-brand that already has recognizable staples: short, flirty party dresses; seasonally updated cashmeres (made in Scotland, by Johnstons); and an established heroine item in the reworked biker jacket—this season's is a totally stunning black patent flower-embroidered version with a white shearling collar. That's mighty impressive for a young designer—then there's the fact that he now also designs Versus for Donatella Versace and a line for Topshop. Still, he's at an age where he can stretch and experiment, and for all his focus and business acumen, Kane needs to be mindful not to get trapped in his own short-and-sexy formula. Fashion needs brains like his to move things on.