Sports couture. Fashion's favourite, perpetual paradox has been a subtext to many of the spring/summer 2012 shows. See fabrics aerated like vertex, stretchy body-con shapes in high-luxe finishes, a feel for Claire Mccardell's unadorned, unpretentious silhouettes and a natty way with a sport shoe/court shoe hybrid. It gives a hint of the street to otherwise salon-polished wares. Call it edge, if you like. No-one of course has more edge than Christopher Kane, London's very own trend barometer of what's about to explode across the fashion scene. Hence, where other designers have daintily tread on that sportif motif, Kane kicked sports couture into hyperdrive.
2012 is the year of the London Olympics - lest you haven't opened a website, a newspaper or indeed your own eyes for the past eighteen months. Maybe that was what got Kane pondering about go-faster females racing ahead into next season. Witness the staging of this show - a hundred-metre dash of a catwalk, with models practically sprinting along in the flattest, fattest shoes seen all week. Fuse a clunky brocade court-shoe with a chunky Birkenstock sandal, sandwich a sneaker sole on the bottom and you have Kane's clodhoppers. They were the bad-taste element they always throw into the mix, messing up a collection that otherwise threw us more to the couture side of that mix.
By couture, I don't mean ball-gowns or heavy corset action. Unencumbered by heels, models raced relentlessly ahead in short, snappy brocade frocks artfully engineered around the body. Slashed clean along the seams, flaps subtly angled around the form, they resembled fighter-jets, or the aerodynamic panels on the wing of a 747. These were clothes built for speed, and as the models moved so those panels flipped open and flew back, streamlining the body.
Those shapes were what really struck a chord - although there was plenty else to consider chez Kane too. The decoration, for one, with cocktail dresses smothered in thick embroidery on collars and pockets, a t-shirt rendered as glittering sequin carapace and a pair of distressed denims embellished in gobstopper-sized bead blooms. On the flip-side, how about making the precious slick and speedy? Instead of floral embroidery, Kane trapped plasticky blooms inside transparent organza - a go-faster garden if you will. As for those pretty-ugly shoes? As garment they were ghastly. But as a metaphor for the vision behind this collection, they were the perfect summary - woman marching forcefully, confidently into the future.