Designer Kai Kühne shines in his second act. By Kirsten Fleming
Kai Kühne, former prodigal son of the downtown vanguard known as As Four, has lost a touch of his edge—but not his sense of the moment. "I am an antenna for the zeitgeist," says Kühne whose solo line, Myself, has just entered its third season. Continuing to eschew the zany yet decidedly important aesthetic and antics that landed his former quintet into the annals of sartorial and socializing history, he has returned with his most sophisticated and wearable range of looks since striking out on his own.
"Avant garde was more turn of the century. The world is changing, and I am taking a more positive approach," says Kühne from his New York studio. While he sees his overall shift as a combination of personal maturity and the demand of the consumer, he is approaching his art from a less selfish point of view these days. "The product needs to be more involved with the customer," he says. "Smart without being egocentric." Relying heavily on flowing jersey against geometric silhouettes for spring '07, Myself unveiled chunky pleated mini shorts and draping dresses, trousers, and a versatile trench, all of which were inspired by a Katharine Hepburn moment. "It's very masculine yet feminine and covered up to feel more approachable," says Kühne.
With an un-intimidating palette of cool creams, white, and black punctuated by touches of metallic, the notoriously mischievous designer has thoughtfully moved away from the drama of his darker fall '06 togs. Enchanting short bubble dresses are understated yet kitted with angular elements, giving them a subtler appeal. While it's the Chloë (inspired by his close friend and muse, Chloë Sevigny), a blouson mini shirtwaist dress, that best illustrates the unlikely pairing of symmetry and fluidity in its hybrid nylon-linen fabric. With its Jane Jetson-meets-Ralph Lauren demeanor, this chic interpretation of the classic can be paired with platforms or flats to cut a devastating entrance.
"I think I am on the right path and going to continue in the same aesthetic," says Kühne who plans to add more color next season and go for baroque by getting more intricate with knits and jersey. Though he concedes that things might eventually change, he'll always continue to keep us guessing. "I've just started the creative process," he says. "But I'm not quite ready to give it all away."
Myself is available in London at Pineal Eye, 49 Broadwick Street, +44 (0) 207 434 2567; in Phoenix at Passage, 4400 North Central Avenue, 602-279-1272; and in Los Angeles at Inago, 8364 West 3rd Street, 323-653-1888. For private orders and more information, go to www.kaikuhne.com.
Designer Kai Kühne shines in his second act.