Christopher Kane is not too proud to name his shame. He's an ophidiophobe—he's terrified of snakes. But, just like the song lyric goes, fear is a man's best friend. From the very beginning of Kane's career, snakes have slithered through his collections to great effect. He claims it's got something to do with his Catholic upbringing: Adam and Eve, original sin, sneaky serpents in Eden. Fact is, everyone should be so lucky as to have such a creative outlet for their manias and phobias, especially when snakes have so much to offer in terms of texture, pattern, color, sinuous silhouette
All four distinguished Kane's Pre-Fall collection as one more sterling addition to a repertoire that continues to hypnotize as effectively as, well, as a hooded cobra. Except that this time, it was the boa constrictor that Kane had his eye on. It made its presence felt in huge, elasticized, snake-printed bands as wide as a wrestler's belt. Kane used one to put the squeeze on a dress that was little more than a huge square of satin. The result—a bit like belting a Hefty Sak—didn't work as well as the tightly wrapped biker jacket, though it did highlight the risks Kane likes to take with his silhouettes. They tend to pay off. Those tricky falling-apart dresses he first showed last fall? They were huge sellers. This season, he added zips, for a little more structure.
Where Kane makes his riskiest moves is often in the shadow land between propriety and vulgarity. A lesser talent might trip over a detail like the frill of snake-printed chiffon that spilled from seams, or the denim pieces, also snake-printed and trimmed in black leather ("It makes the snake even more evil," Kane exulted.) Or the goat-fur jackets, luminously tipped in a near-toxic serpentine green or blue. (The designer thrilled to the prospect of them paired with high heels in fuchsia snake.) What marries good and bad taste in a Kane collection is his unique, unholy, alchemical ability to transform the monstrous into the glamorous. He'd call it "weird science." It was responsible for his latest visual motif: a molecular structure that cropped up on football-jersey tops, as fastenings on a snaky jacquard shift, and as jewelry with a double-helix flavor. This time next year, you can expect to see the Kane molecule going viral.