Bustling With Nostalgia, Christopher Kane Collides Work and Play

Heavy on nostalgia yet progressive in design and material, Christopher Kane ushers in London Fashion Week with an update on the fashions of his childhood. 

It’s often said childhood memories are the ones most deeply etched within us. This season at Christopher Kane, its garments serve as a window through which the Scottish fashion designer reminisces on growing up through the complex filter of the working class in the ’80s. Through a sartorial requiem of his past, the designer challenges our perceptions. Heavy on nostalgia yet progressive in design and material, Christopher Kane ushers in London Fashion Week with an update on the fashions of his childhood. 

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

Awaiting Kane’s presentation, the ambiance was somber and cold, with industrial piping lining the ceiling above. Austere to the touch—except for the plush, vibrant seats ensconcing its attendees—the room seemed diffused in a haze of grey. As the fidgeting front row chatted in anticipation, it’s safe to assume many disregarded its lackluster setting and likely relegated it to contemporary taste. Little did they know, the scene would acutely hint at Christopher Kane’s Autumn/Winter 2023 collection. 

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

Last season, Christopher Kane brought us into a spectacle of clear vinyl encasing the female form. Evocative of Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina, the transparent, ultra-glossy panels observed the female anatomy through the framework of fashion. Some references, more direct than others, featured printed anatomical models of a human leg and arm blown up to gargantuan dimensions. 

Contrasting vinyl with delicate, trembling laces, the collection examined various polarities: vulnerability and strength, innocence and sexuality, and traditional and avant-garde materials. Pastel organza quivered alongside mini crinoline dresses while knit ensembles glided past nebulous masses of lace; ethereal and precise in construction, silhouette was at the forefront of Kane’s experimentation. 

Flora and fauna emerged on the runway; pink roses bloomed abundantly on a sheer set and dress while Animalia hopped onto the scene with pumps decked out in bunny ears. It was cute, cheeky, and, essentially, a sum of Kane’s signature codes. A celebration of the human body ensued while observing its mortality—both heavy topics were discussed through the playful bite Kane is famed for. 

Opening its Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, a graphite grey dress appears, hinting at what will unfold. At first glance, the figure seems reserved and sensible as its wearer struts down the runway—hands in pockets. Utilitarian and straightforward, the show opened with a cryptic look. 

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

As it progressed down the runway, a playful pink floral accent and a chopping board collar hinted at an air of whimsicality this season. Tapping into last season’s use of horticultural motifs, Kane takes a toned-down approach to weave hints of florals into this season as a point of relief amongst its austerity.

Harnessing the memories of his youth through the seams of his collection, the Scottish fashion designer reminisces on the women he grew up surrounded with. Memories of his mother, aunts, and neighbors in the 80s served as a blueprint for this season’s vision.

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

Cleaners and barmaids take the role of muses through Kane’s knack for transforming the expected into the unexpected. Just like the tied bin bags and barmaid-style skirts of the era, bustles are placed on the front and back of the body. Unlike any bustle you may have seen, Kane’s rendition of the historical icon suggests a newfangled adoption of sensuality. As a sultry waddle travels through its luxurious folds, the bustle reaffirms the house’s pledge to empower women through unhindered seduction. With variations making appearances in vinyl saturated in gloss, it’s evident convention was discarded to carve out a new bustle more fitting to the zeitgeist of the new millennium. 

Revealing the form while adding volume in select areas appears to be the specialty of the house this season. Undulating lines exposed and obstructed the body. Alternating between fabric and lace, Kane and his team demonstrated an intricate understanding of the female anatomy. Perhaps last season served as a prelude to this season’s keenly crafted lace ensembles—best observed in looks 36 and 38. 

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

Amidst the overarching concept of depicting the working class, Kane managed to keep those craving glamour in mind. Shimmering sequins evocative of the supercharged glamour of the ’80s were sent down the runway in lustrous creations. 

Then, domestic life made its way onto the runway. As the housewife took center stage, chopping boards were repurposed as collars. Both framing and concealing the face merge the avant-garde with the conventional. 

Kane refreshes traditional gowns with dashes of whimsicality as they become cages for animals on the runway. Extending last season’s affair with Animalia, a tickle-me-pink, pig print floor-length dress was sliced up to the hip to reveal the leg. A phosphorescent dress in look 16 also found itself drenched in another farmhouse icon: this time, chicks. Other honorable mentions flaunted the rat and butterfly as fashionable motifs. While initially seeming disparate elements, these references trace specifically back to Kane’s childhood, in which he witnessed these animals out at play. 

Courtesy of Christopher Kane

While animal prints may not be new to fashion’s revolving doors, this season’s prints, developed using AI-rendered images of animals, reinvent a heavily revisited concept with a refreshing update. 

What can be said that hasn’t been already about nostalgia? It seems fashion simply cannot get enough of the rose-stained glass of the past. Season after season, we’re presented with collections that strive to harmonize history with innovation to deliver something that can truly excite us. 

Injecting an invigorating dose of camp into its latest collection, Kane cuts through the fog of solemnity at London Fashion Week. Balancing work and play, the Scottish fashion designer offered us a slice of his personal life. While many of us can’t exactly explain why we’re so drawn to the past, Kane’s entwinement of his childhood conveys a sense of relativity in the sense that we all look to the past in search of comfort.

Whether delivering a sci-fi fantasy clad in lace or a memento of his youth, Kane’s flair for surprise continues with each collection he debuts. 

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