At the start of a decade, its inevitable that fashion is both looking forward to horizons new, and glancing ceaselessly over its sartorial shoulder to the past few seasons. Designers right now seem diametrically divided between the hard and the soft: a tough, slick, leather-wrapped and vaguely S&M feeling and a somewhat softer aesthetic of traditional ruffled femininity. Trust Christopher Kane to hedge his bets on both counts, fusing polar opposites in his unique and idiosyncratic melting-pot.
A Christopher Kane show is seldom about individual pieces, more about a mood and an aesthetic motif that runs throughout. For Autumn/Winter 2010, Christopher and design partner and sister Tammy took the groupie cliche of leather 'n' lace and the delicacy of floral and gemstone embroideries and ran with them, fusing the two to produce myriad interpretations. The influences were Priscilla Presley, the W.I. and juvenile delinquents. We can bear that in mind as we glance at these clothes, but naturally these starting-points have been abstracted to such a point that they are almost indistinguishable, part of a Kane collage that pulls in the aesthetics of Romany gypsy decoration, folk dress, bondage and Russian religious painting. Those, of course, are just the images I saw - echoes of Orthodox iconostasis in the glitter of jewels set against black calfskin could equally be interpreted as Cher in her Bob Mackie-clad heyday, or draw parallels with Vedura's gemstone-set resin cuffs for Chanel. The Kane siblings are no doubt aware of all of these - their clothes are never anything less than fully informed, and from peony-scattered Norton & Sons tailored coat to leather-inset guipure cocktail dress, each inspiration was interlaced into an immaculately realised whole.
This collection at first glance seems to fly counter to everything fashion is proposing right now. Where, we ask, is the minimalism, the clean lines and the hefty rusticity in pastoral embroidery and thick lace? There are of course two counterclaims - one being that any Christopher Kane show can confidently exist as a trend in itself (in London, he is unique and privileged in this respect). On the flipside, those sparse, clean silhouettes, each one cutting above the knee in never-ever-basic black, chime with the palette-cleansing mood of the time, while the needlework and all that bobbin lace adds a vital touch of handcraft to what is so often a sterile and soulless aesthetic. Make of this show what you will, but the power of Christopher Kane's vision isn't up for discussion.