The scene last Thursday for the Kai Kehne Myself Spring 2006 collection was insane. A legion of supporters lined up and down 18th Street clamoring to get inside the Altman Building. Much has been said about Kai Kehne's defection from As Four, the oft-times misunderstood Lower East Side design quartet, famous for the coveted circle bag and beautiful but weird clothes. ' From communal sleeping quarters to fistfights, the downward spiral and eventual acrimonious split, but none of that overshadowed Mr. Kehne's eagerly anticipated debut. The standing room only crowd drew the likes of Boy George, Janice Dickinson, Paper Magazine's Mickey Boardman, the Village Voice's Lynn Yaeger, downtown hipsters, and of course, the designer's white pit bull, Powder.
The Myself collection presented a unilateral voice as opposed to an amalgamation of four unique personalities at cross purposes. Kai Kehne said that he wanted to go back to his bourgeois roots with this new line. The German-born designer, who seemed to be influenced by his overseas travels earlier this year, incorporated Edwardian, equestrian and desert themes into his fantastically dramatic collection with ease. There were no upside down, sparkly clothes to be found. The controversial, somewhat infamous designer known for bar room brawls delivered an ironic twist of sophisticated ladylike ensembles. Even the music had a somewhat subdued romantic undertone with a soundtrack featuring Art of Noise's 'Moments in Love' and Aerosmith's 'Dream On'.
The Myself palette was a soft blend of safari creams, whites, beiges, and khakis, with hints of pink, peach, and green, evoking an 'Out of Africa' mood. Mr. Kehne sent out a cavalcade of luxurious materials: from light silks and chiffon to taffetas and satin. Key design elements from the voluminous collection included empire waists, ruching, inverted pleats, slightly ballooned and exaggerated cuts, and dropped collars. Gold buttons were a prominent detail, with feathers and soft prints also accenting the buoyant collection.
The hair was worn one of two ways; either long and loose, or pulled back and swept up, but always off the face. For make-up, the emphasis was on the eye with warm peach tones. The mouth was soft and lightly glossed. The jewelry was provided by Evan (son of David) Yurman and featured an assortment of signature gold cuffs. For day, the shoe was a high pastel pump with a rounded toe (in contrast to many of the flats we've seen this season.) The gilded theme prevalent throughout the collection continued with a gold strappy sandal for evening.
In a week of shirt and coatdresses, the designer delivered his take, with an exquisitely ruched shirtdress. Mr. Kehne's interpretation of the culottes-style sailor pant and classic white shirt with gold button detail was also a crowd favorite. The collection ended with a lovely grouping of Botticelli-inspired empire gowns, one with contrasting panel detail at the waist, another with feather accents and one worn under a luxe futuristic gold bolero. Additional Myself highlights included the staple trench, cut much fuller here and a series of beautifully dramatic capes. The first was a sublime shade of silk salmon pink with epaulets covering a brocade dress; the second an Audubon-inspired print in shades of green with a matching short; and my favorite piece, an artois-like cape in peach was literally fit to be tied accompanying a khaki stovepipe pantsuit with gold-button detail along the ankle.
Kai Kehne has said that he's aiming for everybody with his collection, from the young debutante to the rock star glamour puss. He has abandoned the more contrived, conceptual looks he created with As Four in favor of a more classical, conventional, and commercial collection. Coats and cloaks took center stage on the Myself runway. And while capes are generally reserved for cooler climates, they translated beautifully here for spring in lightweight fabrics and soft colors. I've always loved the cape, equally for its emotional and physical value. On one hand it's protective; it keeps you warm and safe from the elements. Perhaps it stems from infancy, when you need a security blanket to envelop and shield you. Beyond its protective layer, the cape is such a dramatic piece. No matter how vulnerable you feel, you project confidence wearing one. The cape is also very chic and instantly elevates any ensemble. Think of what it can do for your basic tank and jeans or as seen here, over a suit. I can hardly wait to wrap myself' up in one his sophisticated versions!