It was 2006 and the Central Saint Martin’s MA show was in full swing when Christopher Kane's dresses hit the catwalk - neon, tight-as-you-like, hyper-embellished wonders that sat just within the acceptable realms of taste. The fashion world was instantly hooked; even Donatella Versace was proclaimed a fan. Ever since Kane has been one of the most talked about and coveted designers on the London scene. Second hand Christopher Kane dresses are becoming covetable as his star continues to ascend
For his first London Fashion Week show, SS07 Christopher Kane kept the dresses coming with dresses featuring in 30 of the 32 looks. Kane expanded his graduate collection into a range of neon body-con dresses in ‘highlighter pen’ shades of pink, cyan, green, purple, yellow and orange. All the dresses were skin-tight and dangerously short and featured huge Swarovski zips, sheer panelling, brass rings and seat-belt style waist buckles. The tightness, the bandage style construction, the straps and brass rings hinted at S&M but the fluorescent colour palette kept the look light and the lingerie inspired panelling and lashings of lace kept it flirty and feminine. These Christopher Kane dresses firmly established that the woman who wore these clothes was not a shy one.
For AW07 Christopher Kane dresses continued to have a body-con silhouette on their top half along with more bondage-style strapping, but below the waist the silhouette opened out into full, skater style skirts. As many of the dresses came in leather the shift in shape acted as a perfect balance to the hardness of the fabric and the pretty/sexy look that Kane was becoming known for was evident. Velvet also appeared in abundance, in green, orange, red, blue and black and often embellished with Swarovski crystals (the biggest of the season). The majority of the detailing focused on the three dimensional as Kane employed origami folds, ruffles and pleats. Hemlines on a few of the dresses had also been dropped from the designer’s knicker-skimming standard to a more commercial length.
His SS08 show was Kane’s first not to be met with universal praise. With the collection’s shift from eveningwear to daywear gone were the sparkling embellishment that had made his name. Instead there were cottons, jerseys, chiffons and ripped-to-shreds denim. Kane also showed a change in silhouette and his oversized jersey dresses looked unexpectedly casual with their frills and ruffles seeming to swamp rather than flatter the wearer.
AW08 started with a succession of Christopher Kane knit dresses; one oversized and slouchy and another turtle-necked, cable knitted and split at the thigh to provide a hint of sexiness. This Christopher Kane collection with its muted palette of nude, black, olive and dove with just a splash of red gave it a more sophisticated feel than previous collections. However it was no less ‘wow’ with the range becoming known as the “Christopher Kane Sequin collection”. Huge 50 pence piece sized discs hung on threads beneath chiffon hemlines, in panels on sleeves and across the top half of dresses. These Christopher kane sequin dresses, with their overlapped, intertwined layers of sheer fabric and sequins were stunning. When combining the sequin embellishment with appliqué and exquisite embroidery the feel was almost couture like.
The Christopher Kane SS09 collection featured one shoulder mini-dresses and long sleeved, high neck dresses in nude and grey organza with row upon row of laser-cut scallop disks covering them. Most striking in silhouette were the dresses where the scalloping was used along the edge of sleeves, creating an animalistic scale-like look. The most famous dresses from the collection however featured graphic animal prints - the Christopher Kane Gorilla Dress and Monkey dress both had striking photoreal primates printed across their bodice. On the back of the success of these naturalist prints Kane's first collection for Topshop in 2009 had a standout sold out piece in the form of the Christopher Kane Alligator or Crocodile dress
Other Christopher Kane scalloped dresses had intricate layers of scalloping and the look was pretty when shown in peach, pink, nude and white but looked fiercer and stronger when presented in black and in citrus shades of green, orange and yellow. The feel was playful yet undeniably sexy, as were boudoir-inspired sheer slip dresses with fur appliqué. Kane’s signature surface embellishment came in the form of rows of looped black strings on a nude base.
The main focus of the Christopher Kane AW09 collection was geometry. As ever the designer treated his chosen theme gently and in his hands it became pretty and soft as opposed to overtly hard and graphic. Velvet strips of ochre, burgundy, black and bottle green were appliquéd onto sheer dresses to form wobbly op-art patterns and arrangements of stripes at varying angles to one another. Softer dresses were made from nude mesh, trimmed with vertical lengths of black velvet which, upon reaching the hemline, tumbled into ruffled edges. There were also stronger dresses more reminiscent of those with which Kane exploded onto the fashion scene. Geometric shapes in nude mesh were outlined in black velvet and were layered to give a look that was futuristic and armour-like in places. In this Christopher Kane collection clever layering of these sheer panels partly obscured the black lines, softening them and keeping look feminine.
For AW10 Kane brought us a thoroughly modern take on florals. There was an abundance of floral motifs in the Christopher Kane black lace that formed a large part of the collection and almost every garment was intricately embroidered with beautiful bouquets of colourful flowers. These sprouted up everywhere from cuffs to hemlines, at times even forming cheeky “lady gardens” on dress skirts. Kane once again displayed his mastery of mixing fabrics and techniques. Whilst these hand-sewn blooms could have looked twee Kane’s placing of them onto a Christopher Kane black leather dress ensured they looked bold and edgy. The collection perfectly balanced prettiness (the Christopher Kane floral dress) with gothic, never veering too far in either direction but treading a fine line between the two.
Christopher Kane Resort 2011 brought us one of his most famous collections yet which featured gorgeous digitally prints of stars and black holes. The Christopher Kane Galaxy Dress (or Christopher Kane Space Dress) is a true fashion collectible.
SS11 saw a return to the Christopher Kane neon dress, albeit with a different mood to his debut collection. These Christopher Kane neon lace dresses were much more demure with hemlines just above the knee and a roomier cut through the bodice. Waists were nipped in and many featured thin colour-matched belts. Dress skirts came with box pleats in the place of the thigh slits of SS10 and there was yet more lace, although used differently to AW10. The lace here came in an ice cream-inspired palette of strawberry, lemon and pistachio. Christopher Kane dresses entirely constructed of lace had a multitude of panels and seams and each seam had a bound edge for emphasis. Oriental multicolour prints were given the same treatment with bindings in neon shades of green, orange, pink and yellow and this binding was also used to trim laser-cut, lace-look leather dresses. Kane himself described this collection as “Princess Margaret on acid [or] Royal neon”.
Many of Kane’s collections are easily referable by the use of one word – ‘checks’, ‘circles’, ‘neon’ etc. In which case AW11 will surely be known as ‘liquid’. For his Christopher Kane liquid dresses splodges of jewel-coloured vegetable oil were trapped in sinuous plastic pouches and were stitched along necklines, onto pocket openings, across waistlines and formed entire top halves of dresses. When combined with a matte black crepe they created a certain ‘fun sophistication’ and when applied to geometric patterned crochet dresses in muted blue, green and mustard they created retro, hippy feel. Buttoned-up shirt style Christopher Kane dresses were kept firmly in the realms of evening wear with mesh panels at the top and the liquid plastic forming the collar and plackets. Elsewhere sheer gathered mesh panels joined the top and bottom halves of dresses and later on this gathered mesh was used to fabricate entire dresses and was lightly sprinkled with tiny iridescent sequins.
For Spring 2012 Kane's dresses were simple and chic. In floral brocades and glossy sateens, these dresses had sleek geometric cut outs and shift cuts. There was also a stunning, light as air Christopher Kane floral dress with 'transfer' flower finish. For Fall 2012 Kane's vision took a darker turn and his dresses featured purple tulle mesh, tangled florals on brocade and black leather cords.
Christopher Kane Spring 2013 dresses returned to a pretty palette of pale pink, yellow, white and gray and there were pretty bow prints and textiles. Kane's quirky dark detailing came in the form of Frankinstein inspired 'bolts' and monster prints. A Christopher Kane pink dress had white embroidery affixed with black 'electrical' tape.
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