“Let’s not go there,” said an emotional Christopher Kane backstage, as he spoke about his mentor and friend Professor Louise Wilson, to whom his show was dedicated.
He described how, after her sudden death earlier this year, he found a cache of photographs taken at the start of his studies at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, where Louise coached and nurtured her students.
In the images, his sister Tammy modelled dresses with coiled ropes that he had put together in their kitchen.
One thing that his mentor would surely have said to all her students would have been move forward, push ahead, never look back. There could perhaps have been something elegiac about this show — a noble celebration of Louise, so admired and loved throughout the fashion world.
But instead, there was Christopher taking up childish things, looking back to when coloured ropes were his story. This decoration still made for some smart, tailored looks and short dresses with the cords stitched around the body shape. But I searched in vain for that uneasy undercurrent of sex or perversity that once invaded Kane’s work. Bondage ropes? No, the clothes were much too ladylike for that. Were fabric horns of plenty spilling over with tulle some kind of fetishist message? Don’t know.
Nor was there the jubilation of colour or even a sly insertion of some “off” shade. Kane said in his show notes that he was inspired by his wine-coloured school uniform. Really? Weren’t there more interesting things he could have pulled from his Scottish past?
Of course, Christopher Kane has set such a high standard for himself that no collection could be bad. There were at the end shapely dresses in shimmering fabrics with narrow glitter rope artfully inserted; while a sophisticated black lace dress with red and white ropes seemed to attract the approval of Salma Hayek, sitting front row with her husband François Henri Pinault, who is backing Kane through his Kering group.
There was every reason for Christopher to feel subdued. So let’s think of this collection as a passage in a great designer’s history and a respectful wake for Louise Wilson. But from up there, in her foul-mouthed way, she would surely be telling Kane and all her cherished designers, “Get over it! Get on with it! Good f***ing bye!”