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Innocence and Broken Dreams

Special Report

Innocence and Broken Dreams – "The idea of the power of three was an intriguing concept"


Published: September 21, 2009
Behind the apparent simplicity of Christopher Kane’s summer 2010 collection was a disturbing mood and a message.

LONDON — In her pleated gingham checks, simple cardigan and with shoe heels like a twist of candy, the model looked as sweet and innocent as her inspiration: Nancy Reagan in the White House garden.

But behind the apparent simplicity of the clothes that Christopher Kane showed in his collection on Monday was a mood and a message that ignited London’s summer 2010 season.

“Jonestown,” said the designer backstage, referring to the 1978 cult deaths in Guyana, when drinks laced with cyanide killed hundreds of acolytes.

But this was a case of “Do drink the Kool-Aid,” because Mr Kane’s collection was powerful on several levels. 

For Britain’s so-called high street stores, here was an instant trend that will make gingham fashionable for the first time since the era of Brigitte Bardot. The designer does not change the sweet, girlish look. But in terms of workmanship, the delicacy of the fabrics, the subtlety of flower embroideries on the back of a skirt and the way that the checks were translated from cotton to chiffon veiling was an impressive statement from a young designer.

Even the knits, with cut-outs at the back, were marvels of construction.

But above all, the designer pulled off an aerobic stretch of the imagination, infusing his little dresses with the sense of innocence on the cusp of broken dreams. Some discomfort came across before Mr. Kane had explained his Jonestown concept backstage — and that is a true example of fashion creativity.

Donatella Versace, who will debut the Christopher Kane collection for her Versus line in Milan next weekend, called the collection “fantastic — and so fresh,” as she and her daughter Allegra arrived from judging the Fashion Fringe talent contest.

Marios Schwab was so eager to explain his thought process that he wrote a one-page essay on three as the “noblest of digits,” referring, among other things, to a trio of ancient Greek goddesses and a mathematical theory of Pythagoras.

On the runway, clothes that morphed from cropped top to draped middle to woven skirt — within a single outfit — was a more difficult equation. Sometimes, a dress came off beautifully, as the different textures and shapes made sense. Yet much of the work looked like an experiment — not least the pannier shapes at the hips that seems to be a London trend.

The idea of the power of three was an intriguing concept. And when Mr. Schwab takes the helm of Halston next season, it will be interesting to see this thoughtful designer handling the body-conscious draping of that brand’s legacy.

It took a trip to Barcelona to inspire the Australian-born Richard Nicoll to soften his clean lines with draping and Spanish fringe. But far from fancying up well-cut pants or smart jackets, there was just a soft flow to his work, as silken outfits came out first in gray, with a trace of dark florals, followed by blue, pink and mauve like a dawn sky breaking.

Without any heavy statement, Mr. Nicoll proved himself a modern romantic with his focus on a soft summer wardrobe.

Since London street style favors a jacket layered over tunic and pants, in a subtle reference to the modern Muslim woman, it was smart of Todd Lynn to take inspiration from an ancient Algerian queen. Soft folds and drapes worn under the designer’s signature tailoring made sense, especially when they were swathed to reveal, subtly, the curves of the body.

But Mr. Lynn still seemed to be wavering between sharp and soft, with shoulders encased in silver body armor or sleeves raw and furry. As the designer said in his program notes, his ancient heroine represented “either the primitive past or a post-apocalyptic future” — which seemed like an uncomfortable place to be.

Meadham Kirchhoff’s collection also took two angles. In deconstructed clothes, swaths of white cotton and patchworks of blush pink chiffon, there was an echo of Japanese avant-garde style. Yet the design duo folded those references into their collection as subtly as the artfully draped fabrics. Abstract sculptures as a backdrop suggested a new rendition of their hard-edged look. But a new romanticism brought glazed tunics in subtle powder colors and the full-on sweetness of a sheer veiling scattered with velvet bows like a storm of honey bees.

Luella Bartley had every chignon anchored with a bow and an array of fruity colors for the perky tailoring of her Luella collection. There was not much depth to this take on an early 1960s women, given rounded pannier hips above a brief hemline. But there was plenty to like and much to wear among the outfits in camel, yellow and blue colors.

Being English to the core, there were riffs on rose prints and those sugar-sweet bows decorated sleeves, cuffs and midriffs — as well as the upswept hair.


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