This season’s collection from Comme des Garçons was shown in La Pigalle, inside a building which was apparently the ‘It’ place to show in the nineties. Legendary shows from Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo herself, all happened here. There must be some residual creative energy in the walls of such a place. Kawakubo sat guests in the middle of the room, either side of a semi-circle. The models wore white sneakers and had violet cellophane in their hair. Velvet underskirts peeped out from beneath white ruffled jackets, which were seemingly turning in on themselves.
Ever the laboratory, presenting future shape for the seasons ahead, Kawakubo – the ultimate designer’s designer - announced that the strong shoulder is here to stay. Proposed as a flat square, this wasn’t about the voluminous sleeves that appear everywhere on the runways at the moment. This was about a definite right angle. Flattening the shape to nearly 2D is a method that Kawakubo has used in previous collections, such as A/W 12. Like pieces of upholstery, here it wasn’t about flat felt shapes, but an opulently trimmed object that was printed too.
One look on the runway opened and closed like a Pierre Cardin death flower. Within the buds of this architectural masterpiece was a padded mannequin shape, which traced the 'conventional' shape of the female form. She was anything other than this. She was an opening and closing eyeball, a haberdashery contraption.
The runway was narrow and fairly precarious. Models passed each other like anything other than ships in the night. Often walking face on to one another, single file, there was sometimes a power struggle - sometimes a practical strategy to avoid collision. Some of the models stood to one side to let another through. A couple of girls ignored one another - brushing past was charged with consequences. As well as connotations of hierarchy and trade, it spoke of power, tradition, and control. Wearing Tricorn hats and translucent pointed masks, the models evoked haunting images of Venice officials roaming the canals during the Italian plague - taking dead bodies to the mass graves, which still lie on the Venetian isles of Lazaret. A magnificent scarlet red look reminded one that the plague even took the Doge’s life. No one was safe. Status meant nothing.
In parallel with ongoing conversations around the status of the rising female, domesticity and surrealism came in the guise of a pair of tartan curtains. The overall theme of hooding and cocooning continued throughout. Undulating velvet panniers were like picture frames, rectangular negative space was left. Knocking on the door of her most commercially iconic motifs, one look had love heart cut outs – and another one covered in polka dots.
The show ended with a girl who appeared to be floating, reminding one again of our beloved, sinking Venice. As if drowning in her own clothing, the model’s head was forced up towards the ceiling. As she walked along the narrow runway in the near pitch black, it was impossible to not feel anxious for the girl. (All seemed fine. She made it. No crashes were heard.) Left in the dark, we were left alone with the thought of Rei Kawakubo’s ongoing genius.