Fragility isn't a word we've been hearing for Autumn/Winter 2009, but at first glance it seemed to be Christopher Kane's leitmotif. In contrast to just about every other show, packed with armorial tweeds, buttoned and buttressed leathers and hefty padded shoulders - in short, a winter wardrobe built for the toughest and roughest climes (both environmental and economic) - Kane dressed his woman for seduction. Not a single pair of trousers came down his runway, and after a half-dozen ostensible daywear exits (with flat, mannish brouges for a hard times realism), it was cocktail time with a deluge of transparent silk, plisse velvet and layers of shimmery, see-through chiffons. Flattened ruffles edged in ribbon, stripes of opacity and flashes of flesh were all par for the course. But all was not as it may immediately appear.
The clue, curiously enough, came in the freebie: a cotton tote printed with multicoloured beetles filched straight from a 19th century zoological almanac. Taking a closer look at those fragile translucent sheaths, their pattern-pieces framed in contrast binding, there were intersecting carapaces that reminded one of an insect's articulated thorax. Chiffon contrasted with organza contrasted with crin - for the uninitiated, that's the transparent, plastic horsehair braid used to stiffen wedding gown hems and a many an overarching, overblown couture number. Kane crafted it into his lingerie looks, which hence stood away from the body in suck-and-jut peplums, corselet waists and breastplates. Soft, but hard, exposed but protected. The iridescence shot through the ombre velvets and two-tone organdies also recalled the shimmer of a beetle's shell, while contrast edging, criss-crossing over and under opacity and transparency, referenced mind-boggling insectoid dissection and even sixties op-art. Again, this was a super-focused collection, expanding, exploring and exploding a single idea through a myriad interpretations. The subtlety was astounding, plays with light and shade, opening up the complexities of detailing within a simple silhouette and letting us glance inside. It would be easy to see this as a simple-minded riposte to winter's bitch dressing mood, but Kane would never be so two dimensional. There is more than one way to go to battle, and Kane's seductive, strong vision of woman may just be about to win the war.