A decade is a long time in any industry, not just the fast-paced, fickle world of fashion. So when designers do reach that milestone (and many of London’s brightest have shut up shop well before they’ve hit double digits) there’s a sense that it should be commemorated. Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2017 show at Tate Britain was certainly cause for celebration as he presented a collection of his greatest hits. In the wrong hands a jaunt through the archive can feel turgid, but Kane is a more gifted designer than most.
When Kane burst on to the scene a decade ago, he did so with an extension of his Central Saint Martins MA collection of body-con lace dresses, crafted from Falke tights and hand dyed in retina-searing neon hues. Those dresses went against the grain, and yet, they were a phenomenon. That sense of helter-skelter subversion is integral to Kane’s success - and this collection had perhaps the most provocative style statement one could imagine in the form of a collaboration with Crocs. Yes, Kane has given that most detested of shoe styles a makeover in wet-look and marbled finishes, garnished with gobstopper sized chunks of rough cut mineral stones. For all the debate such a style statement may cause - and, trust me, the speed with which a fashion crowd can switch from disdain to desire is enough to cause whiplash - it shouldn’t detract from the beauty of Kane’s collection.
There has been a girlishness to much of London’s offering so far this season, but Kane’s customer is built of more substantive stuff: the show notes referenced the Second World War - evacuees and 'make do and mend' - as well as Flappers and a Roman Catholic shrine near his childhood home. Kane’s woman chooses to dress with power - be that in black tailoring studded with more of those mineral stones or cocktail dresses scrawled with embroidery or panelled with disco pleats. This was a shopping list of Kane signatures of seasons past: lilac, fur, lace, embroidered leather, lurex knits, logo sweaters, slouchy cardigans and leopard print, each skilfully reworked to create something perfect for the here and now, as well, no doubt, as the decade to come.