While fashion designers this season are neatly dividing up into modernists or retroists, while fashion buyers are busy debating which trends are going to fly, while the peacocks outside the shows are becoming ever more desperate in ever more outré finery, Comme des Garcons provides an escape from all that.
Inside the show, held in a narrow hall within Paris’ Natural History Museum, time – along with the usual fashion thoughts such as, ‘God, if I see another raw-edged brocade coat I might shoot myself’ – is suspended.
This is Rei Kawakubo’s domain: A place where anything might happen. Except for seeing clothes. Those, we now know never to expect, but what might emerge from around the screen that separates the audience from the backstage, is anyone’s guess. Kawakubo has long removed herself from fashion per se – has no interest in it. She only wants to make clothes that have never been seen before, that are completely new.
So when the first model arrives engulfed in what appears to be bundles of pillow-sized white laundry, her black matted hair frozen over her face, all thoughts – every synapse – is firing, trying to decipher Kawakubo’s message. When the next model emerges cocooned in a mountain of white cotton bows, thoughts turn to wedding cakes and bells. Then comes the third, trapped in a cage of black lace – and all you see is an outfit full of sorrow.
She called it a ‘ceremony of separation’ and, if ever clothes could transmit feelings of pain, anger, loss and melancholy, these were they. The idolisation of souls who had passed away were represented in swathes of gold, torturous grief by bundles of congealed black lace, another model contorted by curved trunks that burst out of her torso could have been a soul caught between worlds. Alongside the sadness, the most beautiful creations in white and festooned with bows emitted a sense of peace.
There was something regal about these mountainous ceremonial pieces – particularly when they had to pass one another along the narrowest catwalk path. Pausing to look at one another, like ghosts passing.
Only Rei Kawakubo can make you think like this.