The everyday as the fetish-worthy. It’s a provocative notion, the fact someone may get off on the sight of dusters or J-cloths – although, given how eroticised the visual of the ‘French maid’ has become, perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising. That was the big idea behind Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection; making the ordinary look extraordinary, the banal seem suddenly perverse. The clean look dirty.
The collection’s muse was Cynthia Payne, one of those well-known (and, this time, aptly named) figures from little British tabloid annals otherwise seldom recognised across the world. Payne was busted in 1978 for running a brothel from her home in suburban Streatham, south London, colloquially dubbed the ‘House of Cyn’. Payne threw ‘kinky parties for kinky people’ – and the presumed collision of placid domesticity and sexual deviance at these events inspired Kane to combine similar themes in his collection.
Payne was, perhaps, a get-out clause – a simple explanation for a complex collection, one cleaving close to Kane’s self-declared interest in combining the exquisite with the bad-taste, the ‘dodgy’. Sexual dirtiness here replaced cultural dirtiness – at least, in theory. I’m not sure anyone’s getting off on a pair of Crocs, a Christopher Kane house signature of questionable taste but absolute hilarity that I’d be wont to say summarised his entire approach to fashion, if I didn’t hate them so damn much. But Kane has never been afraid of polarising observers, giving us aesthetic pleasure and pain in the same ensemble. So maybe he’d quite like that. I didn’t hate this Kane show – I loved it. I got off on it, in fact.
The whole collection revelled in the tension between different landscapes of experience through dress, toying with shifting our perceptions of the same garments. The trappings of the sexual romper-room are generally far away from what we’d assent to wear everyday – here, they cross-bred with girly dresses and coats. There was plenty of latex in Kane’s show, and lace, and scratchy Brillo pad lurex. The latter looked more clean than dirty (unless you have a fetish for fluff), but the former two options could have been pulled from the thralls of domestic bliss or sexual ecstasy – lace knickers or lace curtains? Latex for washing up or stripping down? One model wore an elbow-length pair of gloves in black patent – they could have been marigolds, or BDSM gear. Was she a good girl, or a bad one? Or both at the same time – a chef in the kitchen, a whore in the bedroom, to borrow Jerry Hall’s phrase? Although, judging by the fact that her negligées and stilettos had cross-bred with her scrubbing sponges and dishcloths, it looked like she’d taken a wrong turn.
Backstage, after the show, Christopher Kane and his sister, Tammy, seemed exhilarated but exhausted. Tammy was multiple months pregnant – “ready to drop any minute!” she laughed. They work in tandem – this collection was, apparently, pulled together in four weeks, every piece made in-house in their studio in Dalston, said Ms Kane.
“I love it,” said Mr Kane, bluntly, backstage, a bunch of pins still dangling from his blue cotton shirt. “If I didn’t think it was good, I’d be crying in a corner somewhere.” All pleasure, no pain.