Christopher Kane, the wunderkind of British fashion, has thusfar refrained from showing his collections for Versus on a formal catwalk. Oh, he's come close - the past two seasons we had moving models, the one before static girls modelling his jewel-coloured slip dresses for the very young and not-necessarily-very rich - but in a schedule filled with big-budget bombastic shows for inspiration-light diffusion ranges, Kane sensibly eschewed adding another until the time was right. Perhaps that was to mark his offering out - after all, Versus is the only second line in Milan created by an outside hand rather than the eponymous designer themselves (or rather their extended design team).
If Kane reasoned the time was right now, he was bang on the money - not only in terms of his popularity with the press (he's just received the British Vogue Designer Fashion Fund as a financial seal of their approval), but evidently in creative terms. The collection he showed today was cool, calm and sophisticated - maybe a little too sophisticated for some palettes, with its strict lines, firm tailoring and sly slant of sex in sliced-out, spliced-in semi-transparent corsets. Those were the big motif for the first half of the show, with everything from short cocktail dresses to otherwise-sombre A-line coats chopped in half like an unlucky magician's assistant and then reconnected with boned chiffon panels.
It was a neat aesthetic motif, harking back to Gianni's twin loves of love of construction and seduction. His third love, of course, was a bit of sparkle - Kane covered that too, in metallic-flecked shoes, silver-painted fabrics and strips of diamante running up and down those corset bones. Continuing the theme, Kane sprayed glitter across his garments, in whirling vortex patterns which again have their roots in the seemingly endless Versace archives. They seem endless in part because of Kane's boundless talent for reinventing them, in this instance distorted checkerboards of glitter and matte spiralling across garments like a fusion of Bridget Riley's Op Art canvasses and Art Deco marquetry. Versace may have co-opted them in the eighties, but that mix is basic Sixties meets Twenties, in case you don't know your art history, and hence just what fashion's feeling for next season.
If the catwalk is the litmus test of a designer's credentials, Kane's Versus passed with flying colours - even though colour is the one thing Kane kept out of the equation, focussing on black alongside that restricted palette of metallics. This collection was just young enough, just fashion enough, and plenty inventive enough, to satisfy all demands made of his talent. Given the right price-points for those glitter-spewed frocks, the only problem facing Kane and Versus come winter will be the no-doubt endless demands of retailers to get enough, fast enough.