I've decided to lump these two collections for this review, partly for time/space and partly to illustrate a stark contrast between what happens when you transform childhood memories into fashion and get it right and what happens when you rip off Disney and get it wrong.
I'm starting with the exponentially positive - Christopher Kane.
His fluro-neon, "Princess Margaret on acid" (anyone else sick of hearing that quote?) SS11 collection was well received by insiders and hailed by the mags/blogs as one of the key collections from which retailers and trendsetters alike should take inspiration for the coming season.
Personally, I liked it because it reminded me of sweeties - in particular Rainbow Drops - which in turn made me think about my childhood, and with AW11 we can assume Kane is still riding this wave of retrospective inspiration. Lava lamps, crochet rugs, soda streams... all were cited as inspiration for this, another outstanding collection.
I'm not gonna lie, it was a grower. At first I was like, muted earthy tones, a vaguely 90s grungy feel mixed with a weird futuristic shapes, FURTHER contrasted with conservative lines and twin sets? REALLY?! I struggled for a while to put the collection into context... Then I realised I was over thinking it. Once I stopped freaking out I began to see the genius behind it all.
You can't fail to see this is beautiful - all the tiny shimmering pockets resembling sequins are actually filled with a clear viscous liquid... This'll be the Soda Stream reference then. Love that the mary janes give the look a deliberately dated feel.
More close-ups of that amazing plastic/fabric/whatever. Designed to warm to the body, the liquid inside shifts and moves exactly like a lava lamp does. Like I said before, the effect is futuristic but rooted in childhood memory. Just breathtaking.
Possibly my favourite look, but it's too hard to choose really.
The longer I thought about this collection, the more it reminded me of my youth. As well as the pink crochet top, I also had a spice girls cropped-top with a squidgy, liquid-filled plastic square on the front that said SPICE, and a rug just like that first image. I didn't have a lava lamp (weird scared by them) but I knew loads of other kids who did.
It got me thinking about staples from my childhood like astro belts, mood rings, those weird alien babies in slime, and that TV show The Tribe on Channel Five early in the morning... I fear I'm going off on a tangent but I hope you all get what I mean!
Anyway, yes, this was yet another outstanding collection by Christopher Kane. Perhaps even more so than the embroidered leather of AW10...
Now for the not so positive - Topshop Unique.
I didn't hate it all, in fact some of the later, 30s-inspired Art Deco looks were actually quite pleasing but I was generally left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. Oh Topshop Unique, I had such high hopes for you, especially given the absolute smash of last year's AW collection. A triumphant nod to woodland creature/Lion Witch & The Wardrobe chic, complete with mental bushy eyebrows and even the odd pair of antlers... This proves I don't mind a bit of childish fantasy or over-the-top styling!
But to basically copy the (lesser known 1956 novel but later a successful) Disney film 101 Dalmatians - to literally lift the inspiration from somewhere else and represent it directly without doing virtually anything to it? Nah, I simply didn't get this.
This collection showed just how much Topshop is a retailer first and foremost and a design house second. I like fun and quirky, I like cheeky and whimsical, and I've even been known to approve of tongue-in-cheek, but Topshop more than ever needs to up its game. A few fake Dalmatian fur coats and dog-eared models does not a fashion-forward collection make.
Seriously, am I being overly harsh here, or does this just look lazy and uninspired?
Are the proportions here whack, cos this coat is making this size 4 model look chunky. Not good. A trench coat with Dalmatian sleeves... Yawn.
I've pretty much run out of things to say about this. And that in itself is a BAD sign.
One of the looks I actually didn't hate. But then I'm a sucker for a fab fur coat, dress and knee-high combo. Again though, I feel like I've seen this before. I have no doubt that if any of these pieces make it to the shelves they'll sell like hot cakes, but are they doing anything different and original? Nope.
Again, another look I actually liked. The Art Deco print and drapey, lounge-wear feel of the set makes me glad that SOMEONE put some effort into this collection.
I don't really want to end on a low here, but SERIOUSLY?
I feel like I can't look at this collection objectively anymore because I've become kind of angry at it. It's a cop out... I'm sure those horrific doggy jumpers will sell out, but it just feels all too easy. I wish Topshop Unique had taken more of a risk.
Christopher Kane showed us that you CAN use childhood memories and experiences as inspiration for something greater, but you don't have to represent your influences it in a childish way. I was ROOTING for them, but ultimately I wish Topshop Unique had done better. I really do.
AS EVER I'd love to hear what you think - am I chatting rubbish?
Congrats if you made it to the end of this post btw, what a MONSTER!!