christopher kane invited us inside the fetish world’s of looners, rubberists and sploshers
The Glasgow-born, London-based designer is fashion’s sex ed teacher.
“Sex is human behaviour, and it's fascinating,” Christopher Kane explained after his The Joy of Sex-inspired autumn/winter 18 show this time last year. “And sex, well, it can be fun? You know?” Oh, we know. From Biology spring/summer 14 to Lovers Lace autumn/winter 15, inviting us behind suburban net curtains to witness perversions of prim, to last season’s David Attenborough-voiced exploration of sex in nature, sex has long been on this Glasgow-born, London-based designer’s mind.
While many of his contemporaries continue to swerve sex during this #MeToo time that sees our social feeds and newspapers filled with awful people doing awful things, Kane’s desire to ground his subtle subversions, playful provocations and otherworldly mundanity in natural, and consensual, expressions of sex, lust, desire and love has only intensified. “Sex should never be taboo, that would be going back in time. I make clothes to empower women especially at times like this,” he reminded us. So, he took us further into the taboo for autumn/winter 19 as he performed fetish-fuelled alchemy inspired by communities of people aroused by balloons (looners), rubber (rubberists), food and liquid. After spending hours researching these worlds, Kane emblazoned these rarely openly discussed desires across dresses and gowns that playfully covered and uncovered the body. Subversions became slogans, the unspoken shouted loud, the hidden revealed.
“Rubberists and looners are everyday people working within society but this element of surprise is what excites me, what intrigues me,” he explained. “My obsessions aren’t any of these but I’m drawn to the idea of them.” If like Kane, you’re intrigued by who or what looners are, i-D contributor Paris Lees explored this community of balloon fetishists for BBC 3 and although it’s NSFW, a quick google search will lead you down a Reddit-scroll rabbit hole. “It’s human behaviour, human obsessions, the ordinary becomes something sexual, it’s not comical or gimmicky, it’s reality, some people don’t find other human beings sexual but find objects sexual.”
Beyond the slogan-pieces, subtle-suggestiveness could be uncovered in every double take. Lace, latex, chainmail and studding were all used in carefully-crafted configurations. With a nudge and a wink, balloons were tiled and applied to mercury lamé to create one the season’s most perfect party dresses, to be worn by those that both know and don’t know the collection’s inspirations. Elsewhere, handbags mimicked blood bags and prints mirrored spilled water and sensual oils, an homage to sploshers (people who like food and fluid smeared on bodies) and the strong women that Kane surrounds himself with. “It’s all about liquid ladies, this idea of fluidity,” Kane explained. “I always reference the strong women of my world and they’ve always been fluid, they come and go, they don’t care.”
The most powerful of pieces combined these ideas of fluidity and flight, with high-hemmed, cut-out cocktail dresses teamed with orthopaedic heels. “That pronounced ‘cupcake’ skirt is something we did early on but pushed it further, it’s more exaggerated,” Kane reminded us. “If she bends now, you’ll see a flash,” he added with a smile. In an instant, sex and sexiness switches from subtle and subversive to suggestive and obvious.
As fashion’s favourite sex ed teacher/therapist (sorry Gillian Anderson) continued his lessons and explorations into behind-closed-doors worlds, we wonder where he’ll take us and which fetishes he’ll introduce us to next. Given his love of nature, perhaps he’ll introduce us to actirasty, an arousal to the sun’s rays? Or chasmophilia, an arousal to caverns, crevices and valleys? Maybe formicophilia, an arousal to insects. Or nebulophilia, an arousal to fog and xylophilia, an arousal to wood. Thankfully, our myriad of sexual desires are seemingly infinite, the internet an infinite scroll of subversions just waiting to be Christopher Kane-d.