The designer drew on his own Scottish childhood as well as the resourceful ethos of post-war Britain
Fashioning something meaningful out of garbage in an age dominated by headlines concerning migrants and the displaced was last season's theme from Christopher Kane.
But for summer 2017, the designer celebrated his 10th year in fashion with a collection that went back to his own childhood and echoed the make-do and mend spirit of Britain's post-war generation.
Handed out with his show notes were prayer cards showing devotional medals for indulgences from various patron saints, including, of course, St Christopher, patron saint of travellers. All related to the Roman Catholic Carfin Grotto shrine that is Scotland's version of Lourdes. Kane explained backstage that he was focused on second world war-era refugees and “the idea of abandonment”.
“From the very beginning, 10 years ago, I’d use anything: stockings in the market, nicked things — nothing that I shouldn’t have — so that’s why I always had this ethos of make it work. I don’t need expensive fabric, I can make anything out of a pair of pants and that’s what I did for my MA so there was a really nice note to that. Then I was thinking about wartime and how it was so provocative and really strict, and how they used to just have to maintain their glamour in creative ways.”
So this show was really a continuation of the last, but less chilling and emotional because its vision was more of the past than the present. Yet that did not apply to the clothes themselves that were a display of ingenious craftsmanship. Last season: plastic head scarf; this time, Croc sandals with detachable, stick-on jewels.
The concept of using anything and everything as decoration was extended to Polaroid images that had been hung on his study door and were now re-purposed as the print for a coat.
Although Kane might again have drawn resourcefully from objects around him, the collection did not seem like a fashion version of outsider art or what he called “a new primitivism”.
There was a green fur coat, but looking more glamorous than earthy, daisies from the Mary Quant era as decoration and various wiggles and squiggles worked into a wild version of fish netting.
There were some make-do pieces like a grey cardigan held together with metallic rivets, bits of blue Lurex-denim and plastic rainproof materials, reminders of the early days when Christopher and his sister Tammy were making clothes out of odds and ends from the local market. Handkerchiefs of patterned silk were pinned with rivets to white dresses and jackets were fastened with an assortment of mismatched buttons that could have come from a grandmother’s button box.
But a decade on, things are not as they once were. Christopher has to fill an elegant London store, where his marble-patterned shopper-style handbags and clothes swirling in lapis lazuli blue are more what high-end customers might want.
For those who like to signal the provenance of what they wear, there were charms saying “Kane” and a black sweater with a St Christopher medallion on the front.
So “Happy Birthday” to brand Kane and to Christopher's sister Tammy, who was wearing her Saint Theresa school T-shirt, perhaps ironically; perhaps as a symbol of remembrance. But all the prayers in the world cannot bring the innocent young duo back to where they were in 2006. Onwards and upwards is the only way to keep ahead in fashion.