At first glance, the early parade of pristine white on Christopher Kane's catwalk felt like a direct reaction to the sinister darkness of his Fall collection. Then reason asserted itself. There is nothing direct in Kaneland. The vision of polished elegance he presented today was as underpinned by strangeness—maybe even a hint of horror—as all his work is. You didn't even need a guest appearance by Boris Karloff (Frankenstein on a T-shirt) to get that, though Frankenstein helped to clarify clothes bolted together with big plastic wing nuts. After all, the good doctor also attempted to bolt together new life from a handful of unlikely, even unpromising, ingredients, and that's a reasonable metaphor for the ambitions of the average fashion designer.
Kane's scarcely average, of course, and it's highly unlikely he imagined himself down in the lab making fashion monsters. But he certainly revels in unlikely ingredients. There were cocktail dresses here seemingly concertina-ed from a hundred plastic shower caps that, given the free associations the designer usually makes after his collections, took the overactive imagination to Psycho or that hotel bathroom in The Shining. In which light, didn't the elegant folds of fabric that draped Kane's dresses look a little like hand towels? And what to make of all the pieces delicately constructed from a filigree of injection-molded rubber? In fleshy pink, it quivered slightly clammily. "Girls love a bit of rubber," Kane said blithely. His coup de grâce was a finale of dresses in palest organza appliquéd with crystals and white lace seemingly held down by random applications of black gaffer tape.
Some of the propositions felt like an upmarket evolution of ideas Kane visited in his resort collection. The safety belt closings, for instance, here reconfigured as bowed belts that snapped shut. The gaffer tape could have been a re-definition of the earlier collection's splashes of punk. Kane's own description of his palette was "colors that make you feel a bit sick."
He's super-self-aware like that, and gleefully fearless with it. As beautiful and sophisticated as the clothes he showed today were, he's happy to drop a tragic, misbegotten monster into the mix. That dichotomy is where his enchantment lies. What were the words Screamin' Jay Hawkins was wailing while the audience filed out? Oh, yes. "I put a spell on you."