In times of trouble, it’s normal to retreat or to regress. Rei Kawakubo presented her A/W 17 collection for Comme des Garçons on the same day that Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Recently, Kawakubo has shown collections that deal with war, aggression, pompous masculinity - would she make a political statement? Well, this season, she sensed instead that we all needed some light relief. Boyhood was the theme of her collection. Her signature tailored jackets, always slightly-warped in fit, came with models for toys attached to the back. They looked almost like jelly moulds - devices for producing happiness and joy. Trucks, dinosaurs and animals - happy, puerile distractions for those not ready, or perhaps not willing, to face up to the real world. The same moulds and plastic models appeared on the toes of the Nike collaboration trainers that have already, after last season’s hype, become such a must-have. Others came decorated with cheerful pom poms - Comme does clown.
I say this wasn’t political, but there’s something subversive about things that are willingly facile or infantile. Think of the punks - part informed, angry, sexual, part childish and silly. Think of Sid Vicious posing like a toddler, goofy faced and pigeon-toed. That same complex mix ran through today’s show. It was strangely erotic - see those fetishistic buckles and the bare torsos - but oddly innocent as well, thanks to the pastels and toy motifs. Warped, in the way Kawakubo does best.
That said, it’s easy to interpret such intellectual statements and urgent, informed ideas when viewing a Comme des Garçons collection, but these seem so out of step with the casting, which remains so very, very white. If Kawakubo truly wants to make a statement about the times we live in, she’d do well to look at her own power and position first and rethink her runway norms.