The models on Christopher Kane's catwalk today were such a devastatingly lovely confluence of clothes, hair, makeup, and genetic benediction that you could only crave illumination as to how it all had come together. Then Kane gave you the background—how he'd randomly come across some photographs of girls in grim council-estate bedrooms, the paper peeling off the walls behind them, their stickers and scrapbooks nearby—and you were quickly enlightened as to how the very best designers are actually alchemists, capable of transmuting the most marginal, even unpromising material into pure gold. Because that's what Kane's collection was.
The characters he was thinking of were, he said, "the girls you hate at school," hanging out together, bullying boys as much as other girls. It's a curious vision of feminine strength, to say the least, but it's hardly the first time Kane has taken such a dark, tricky tack. And ultimately, what counts is what he does with it. From that initial spark, he sits and draws and draws… and draws some more, until what's in front of him is a universe away from his original inspiration. That's what happened here. If the girls in their cricket sweaters and short skirts might have echoed the sporty sorts Kane remembered from his own gym classes (jiggling while they jumped, to the boys' delight), the way he articulated dress seams, folding and spreading fabric, was almost unearthly, suggesting the wings on which kids in hard times wish they could fly away. In a spirit of uplift and optimism, Kane made his opening dresses from Lurex yarn and brocades (inspired by the peeling wallpaper in the photographs) so they glistened richly. The flowers he appliquéd might have been derived from the cutouts in a schoolgirl's scrapbook, but he floated them in a trim of sequins. It was all about intense, focused craft.
Another, even more extraordinary group was cut from "ghost fabric," 70 percent aluminum organza, so fine it was practically invisible. Four layers were used in a dress, and still the effect was elusive, even when it was anchored with more floral appliqués in a ravishing combination of colors. The unlikely inspiration for a final passage of richly beaded pieces was the decoration on an old patch pocket Kane found at a flea market. Cutoff denims (the fruit of a collaboration with J Brand) were also encrusted, as were the pool sandals that were the show's sole shoe. Yes, pool sandals, the flat footwear called into play when Kane decided to make everything shorter. They helped ensure that the attitude of the clothes was energized and, in some skewed way, real. They also underscored the fact that Kane is an utterly original talent, a maverick mind who finds beauty where others don't even begin to look.