Rei Kawakubo was in spine-tingling mode at Comme des Garcons this season. She showed a collection that seemed to take in everything from sex to death, nodding to rock and roll, romance and rites of passage along the way, and set off to screeching effect by Scott Walker and American drone band Sunn O))).
She worked in red and very little else – it was a solid, incarnadine scarlet that came as leather ribbands and belts that made up what approximated coats and capes, hanging in strips or fastened bondage-style to pin arms by sides. There was PVC, suede and silk too, all in similar shades but marked out by texture and degrees of intensity.
These made up knotted and flapping deconstructed bow shapes around the body. One look, with giant panniers, seemed to be a bow in itself, or a lipsticked pout. Either way, the richness of connotation provided a deep seam for Kawakubo to mine.
She patchworked fabrics and wrapped textures around the body in undulating lumps and bumps – some more like giblets and intestines than any more frothy adornments – woven basket-like into deconstructed patent wicker, and strung around crinoline bases in seemingly arbitrary loops, until you noticed the very careful and exacting exposure of, say, a suggestive buttock here or a thigh there.
The only relief came in white accents – that is, a white shift spattered with yet more sanguineous red, the aftermath of a jugular having been cut, it seemed. Another look combined white-flecked tubi-growths around the body into a wobbly orb, while several incorporated the flubbery wader leg shapes that Kawakubo is so fond of.
There were other Comme tics here too, in piled-on rosettes that felt almost deliquescent in their excessive usage, in subtly S&M nods, and in the overall feel of a femininity at once threatened and threatening.
There are parables to be read into this collection, but one obvious stimulus for discussion came in the giant hooded cloaks towards the end of the show, at once fairytale-esque, ecclesiastical, and apocalyptic in red, white and transparent PVC.