Bravo! Brava! The crowd roar for Kawakubo! With dramatic and impressively sizeable pieces, this A/W 18 collection was a show-stopper. My first Comme show - I was bowled over.
There are often funny quips that come from the audience after a Comme des Garçons show; 'It’s Rei’s world, we just live in it,' is one of my favourites. Normally attributed to Beyoncé, that comical statement was rather pertinent to this show, for Rei Kawakubo had blown the socks off her audience with her challenge to the term 'Camp'. Kawakubo had been looking at Susan Sontag’s essay on the deep meaning behind the word 'Camp' and how the phrase is based on something more creative. One feels as though only Kawakubo could interpret this with such magnitude; Camp is a difficult term to dissect and interpret, the term can mean so much or so little to the individual, but here with Kawakubo’s designs and Sontag’s words, it had been beautifully challenged.
'The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric - something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques,' says Sontag in her 1964 essay. That statement alone already sounds much akin to the house codes of Comme des Garçons. There were the typical tropes of Camp throughout the collection; exaggerated silhouettes, outlandish colour-ways of candy pink and glittering gold; there was excessive volume and eccentricity, but each whimsical attribute was elevated and given depth with an underlying mood and feeling of rebellion.
'All Camp objects and persons contain a large element of artifice,' says Sontag. The term 'artifice' in reference to Camp excelled in Kawakubo’s designs; foil-like textures, layers of nylon slip dresses to make a full skirt, a dress splayed on its side from shoulder to make one large overblown dress and an entirely new silhouette, layers and layers of lace, neon green leopard print, and platform Nike Cortez shoes. These elements all harked to the artifice Sontag cites, eschewing the word’s often negative connotations with their brilliance.
The most magnificent Mille Feuille dress appeared. Whether it resembled a cake, a pile of letters, a stack of fabric swatches or even fibreglass insulation, it was spellbinding. Sontag quotes Oscar Wilde in her essay: 'One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.' This collection, every look, offered the perfect response.