#SuzyLFW: Christopher Kane’s Domestic Goddesses
Opaque plastic, filled with glycerine and fastened with pink ribbons – in my mind’s eye, Christopher Kane, back in 2011, was the first designer to make a utilitarian material seem wearable. He seems to have started a trend, now that even Burberry has embraced plastic for outerwear.
But Kane’s vision for spring/summer 2018 was not so much plastic fantastic as a slightly fetishistic addition to the wardrobe. The designer projected a universe of concepts around the kitchen sink – even if dishwashers have taken over and fewer women in a digital era are hiding behind net curtains in suburbia.
In the designer’s world, the floral pinafore could be made into a semi-transparent dress, with only the apron front to keep decency. A T-shirt had a print of cleaning cloths tumbling out of a washing machine, and the shoes were those Crocs sandals of last season all done up with plastic, marabou and fringing.
“I have always been obsessed by that pristine woman, so clean, so proper – yet having an emotional breakdown inside,” said Kane. “I wanted to look at the idea of a closed domestic world, made into the exterior look of a person, something both clean and kinky. It’s what goes on behind closed doors in those everyday environments: the smell of bleach, Royal Doulton figurines and a certain kind of British sauciness.”
“The collection is based on a domestic goddess – she was an amazingly strong character, physically powerful, inside crazy – there’s always a dark secret,” continued Kane, whose show riffed on lingerie for daytime, cardigans cut like an apron and a pale pink knitted dress with a hard surface like a scouring pad. The colours alone – pink, pale blue and white, along with ‘maid’s bedroom’ flower prints – evoked an earlier era.
The show was extraordinarily inventive and, seen as a fashion college project, it would win a five-star award. But Kane is part of the Kering luxury group, with its chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault sitting front row with his movie producer wife Salma Hayek. When I asked the executive if he was planning more Christopher Kane stores to follow the one in London’s Mount Street, he replied that the current focus was on increasing overall international sales.
The challenge for Kane is that while his imagination and its execution are breathtaking, the clothes might seem odd taken out of the context of the show and hung on a rack for sale. Of course, alterations for retail can be made, as has always happened with lining see-through materials. And even some of the plastics would make a chic raincoat – not to mention streamlined pink tailoring with lines of frilly apron decoration running down the sleeves.
Backstage, Kane talked about his memories of his late mother in her frilled apron polishing “relentlessly” with mops and domestic appliances all around her.
“But I always loved the kinky side – it is a very British kind of perviness and maybe only we get it,” said Kane, who had even used The Great British Bake Off television show as inspiration.
In cake making, perfect ingredients alone do not necessarily produce the best result. As a fashion show, Kane’s imagination and skill were astonishing. The question is how one of the most powerful designers can channel his talent in a way that makes covetable clothes, not just a great experience, for a worldwide audience.