Christopher Kane: Virtuosity of the Brain

19 February 2013
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Christopher Kane: Virtuosity of the Brain

“I was looking at this MRI scan of a healthy brain” and it just sort of exploded, said Christopher Kane, referring to a magnificent show on Monday that encompassed tiny strings of rolled silk, woven across the body; camouflage patterns that looked as if their surfaces had been shredded; filigrees of wispy fabric, and the head scan that started it all printed across the chest of a dress.

What a fashion brain the designer must have to have conceived all these original ideas, executed them in his tiny East London studio and offered them as a gift to his new owner, François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive of the luxury group PPR. He sat front row with his wife Salma Hayek and with Donatella Versace, who invited Mr. Kane to work with her Versus line in 2009.

‘’Such creativity,” said Mr. Pinault. But even that compliment did not do justice to the prolific talent of the 30-year-old Scottish designer, who is as adept at creating a camouflage kilt and playing with its traditional leather straps and buckles as he is in rolling silk to the width of a pipe cleaner and weaving it to make the tactile strings of a slim dress.

If the collection was perfect, it was because it was also imperfect: Narrow pieces of material had been pulled away to reveal flesh; feathers were used to look like fraying seams, and the entire effect of the camouflage outfits was of unfinished, ruffled surfaces. Yet other elements of the collection — especially the lavish use of deep pile fox fur — were hyper-sophisticated and luxurious.

And still the show went on, exploring new silhouettes with broader shoulders, adding knitted fluffy tops or sculpted silver neckpieces and bracelets. Then there was that final explosion of Mr. Kane’s vision: dresses with filament fringing giving an other-worldly effect.

It was one of those rapturous moments for fashion professionals confirming what they knew. Here is a young talent that has already exploded — with ideas.

Mr. Kane’s show offered a fashion yardstick to mark the rise of a new, and mostly British, generation of designers. It blew the audience’s mind and will feed the brain cells of the global fashion world.

Christopher Bailey called his Burberry Prorsum show “Trench Kisses,” hence the heart-patterned handbags. The same print was on underpants that showed through a translucent raincoat, which the troops who once wore Burberry’s famous trenchcoats are unlikely to have seen as it was made of rubber.

The hard side of love was played — not the romantic music from Tom Odell and his live band, revealed from behind the backdrop halfway through the show, but rather in the mix of romantic and edgy: gilded eyelets punching though skirts or rivets on the bodice of a dress. There was even a version of embellishment that looked like ring pulls and soda can tabs.

Gold at its brightest and hardest was a theme throughout, along with animal prints that appeared on the sporty clothes and on the new Burberry shoe — low, with a curving heel and a look of the 1960s. That figured, for Mr. Bailey’s other message was of the inspiration of Christine Keeler, a call girl whose sexual exploits helped to discredit the British government in 1963. That idea brought a piquant touch to a show that, as the designer himself said, was otherwise “a collection of classics.”

Mr. Bailey is to be admired for his slick and lively shows, season after season, keeping Burberry on the high road — right up to cyberspace.

“I’ve always been afraid of black, but there is the duality of my woman. I wanted something that felt a bit darker, a bit Ingmar Bergman,” said Erdem, as the designer Erdem Moralioglu is known, referring to the films of the Swedish director and saying that he wanted to play with different shades of black.

Riffs on the book title “Fifty Shades of Grey” have become commonplace. But the designer talked backstage about using veiled flesh as “insinuations of skin.” Maybe he also was suggesting “sin,” for in this collection familiar pink blooms were shaded with black chiffon or ostrich feathers wafted over the surface, making the clothes sensual but never vulgar.

In the past, the designer has seemed a little too polite, not quite raw enough for the London scene. But this collection had more sexual heft.

The Erdem look has been developed as cocktail wear. But there were tweeds too for this winter season: a coat woven with gleaming PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, one of the many jolting fabric mixes that make the designer’s correct clothes seem modern. Even bright, three-dimensional embroidered flowers seemed to float on organza.

“There is a wonderful freedom with winter clothes,” the designer said, referring to the speed in which the shows have to be readied between Christmas and February. But he might equally have been speaking about his own relaxed attitude.