Has Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons had enough of creating stuff for private collectors and museum curators?
This could be one of Comme des Garçons’s most wearable, clothing-like collections in recent memory. While it may delight fans, it did not mean Rei Kawakubo had made it easy. On the surface, the ensembles did not look like the encasements she had been showing for no less than six seasons, but, just as you thought it was safe to bring out the CDG rags you’ve been hording, she worked in the bumps. These, fans would know, are her old normal.
In fact, we started seeing some semblance of normalcy—by her own standard any way—last season (even the season earlier), when the designs seemed to have the chance of an actual willing body to wear them. This time round, the 30-look collection—a grand number, considering that the collection prior to last year’s Met’s Costume Institute exhibition comprised of merely 18 looks—could be mistaken for sister line Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons or even the other family member, Black. It has distinctively identifiable pieces such as jackets (yes, with two sleeves), trousers (yes, with two legs), and skirts. They’re not only body-suitable, they’re boutique-ready too.
Reports following the show proposed that Ms Kawakubo was sharing her own experiences as a woman distanced by youth (hence the models’ grey hair and almost-no makeup) and, consequently, offering a thesis on womanhood, early or late. If so, could these clothes mirror Ms Kawakubo’s own unknown wardrobe, speculated to be more suited to her workplace than the deformed, layered, and status quo-defying constructions that she had been proposing to the miscomprehension of many not wanting to miscomprehend? Or has Ms Kawakubo simply returned from another planet?
Ms Kawakubo would, naturally not let clothes just be. No fashion is sacred that it can’t be defiled, no line too straight it can’t be bent, no tailoring too perfect that slits and holes can’t be put in it. And there are the bumps—awkward bulges not usually associated with fashionable dress. They have appeared intermittently since she first introduced them in the 1997 spring/summer collection called Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body. In the present iterations, many are more discreet, some of them appearing like pregnant bellies (actually padded body suits), peeking from between a slit made across the waist of jackets (or at the sides, like bulbous panniers). We don’t think this a commentary on a woman’s maternal disposition. Ms Kawakubo isn’t so obvious. But if this isn’t about child bearing—and it’s not likely a note on marsupial pouches in which joeys are born, what could she be getting at?
It’s hard to say except that bumps are part of the CDG vernacular, just as stuffed bows and other large, three-dimensional embellishments are much a part of their decorative repertoire. So while this season’s offering may look recognisably wearable (and uncommonly symmetrical for the most part), they were not freed of Ms Kawakubo’s off-kilter but strangely feminine proportions, surface effects of hand-fashioned twists and turns, and unexpected placements of those protuberances.
Some people are disappointed that CDG is now offering clothes that would not be at odds with a typical fashion wardrobe. That those weird, sometimes wonderful designs may be no more. There has been talk among collectors of CDG’s catwalk looks that the designer no longer wishes to sell the main line shown in Paris Fashion Week. Difficult to make, it was said she had lamented. Additionally, she does not want them to be marked down for sale, a fate that’s hardly surprising since these clothes have a built-in don’t-buy-me/where-do-you-wear-this-to deterrence. Not everything in CDG can enjoy a healthy sell-through as the Play line. It has always been the unwearable pieces that have elevated the desirability of her sub-lines, much like how haute couture for French brands is the driver of sales of the RTW, leather goods, and perfumes. But then typical has never been the Comme des Garçons lure. Way-out more so.