Sleaze. It's something Christopher Kane is fascinated by. His fashion approach isn't the standard glib designer reference-tug of two-decade old styles to dust off and re-appropriate, but to dredge the depths of taste and allow something subversive to surface. The sick lilac carpet that smothered his Autumn/Winter 2012 catwalk gave us a hint of what was to come - a hymn to stomach-lurching bad taste at its very best.
The starting-point was a Joseph Szabo photograph of a disaffected teenager in a moire skirt. Kane spun that out into a delinquent fantasy, soundtracked with heavy metal and dressed in aggressive shades of vermillion and a wince-inducing mauve that matched that shag-pile. If the carpet reminded you of a dodgy lounge-bar in Driffield circa 1982, the clothes could have been costuming the underage girls sipping tepid Malibu and coke, knotted up in leatherette and glistening polyester moire. Of course, Kane's leather was kid and his moire finest silk, but the sleaze was still palpable. There was a power in its single-mindedness - and committing to a colour palette quite so volatile requires utter confidence in your own aesthetic judgement. Plasticised leopard-print in those two searing, predominant hues was fantastically grotesque, inset with yet more leather, trussed with wrapped cord like Japanese suspension bondage, and cut into stiff and boxy cropped jackets and knee-length coats.
If there is one thing to criticise, it's that Kane sometimes compartmentalises his talent too much. A few of the shapes in this collection felt overly simple - haven't we seen the straight skirt/oversized sweater combo in a few too many of his collections? Likewise those strapped-up, cut-out little dresses, this time A-line hems held out with trapunto-padded leather tubes. The surfaces changed, but the shapes felt a touch cookie-cutter, betraying an obsession with surface tinkering rather than actually dealing with the nitty-gritty of cut and construction. At the same time, the absolute bloody-minded focus of Kane's reiteration of his slick, sick theme had a throbbing power it was impossible to deny. Alongside the blaring rock music, it was almost enough to silence the tiny voice inside your head questioning the legitimacy of Kane's seasonal volte-face, the only thing predictable about any of his collections. This bitchy, witchy, block-heeled bondage collection obliterated all memory of his Lana Del Rey-soundtracked brocade serenade of spring 2012. But it does beg the question: how long can we carry on ripping it up and starting again? Kane has built a signature of continual change. Personally, I'd like to see him build a wardrobe for his woman beyond a seasonal must-have look.