#SuzyPFW: Comme des Garçons Camps It Up

Serious fun at Comme des Garçons

Surely the message that popped up on my lap top must be a mistake? For the first time in over 35 years of Comme des Garçons shows, I had been sent written information, rather than a few mysterious words from designer Rei Kawakubo.

While the designer herself was still inscrutable backstage, repeating the single word “Camp” to describe her joyous clothes – the fabrics in crazy mountains of material, including frilly underwear – the message was more intriguing.

The words said: “Susan Sontag wrote about a creative movement and sensibility, camp. I can really identify with this vision. Camp is not something horribly exaggerated, out of the ordinary, unserious or in bad taste. This collection came out of the feeling that, on the contrary, camp is really and truly something deep and new and represents a value we need. For example, there are many so called styles such as punk that have lost their original rebel spirit today. I think camp can express something deeper and can give birth to progress.”

The fact that the models were smiling as they stood together in these barrages of clothing was surprising, even shocking, in itself, for the Japanese designers in general and Rei Kawakubo in particular introduced solemnity to the runways back in the 1980s.

But who wouldn’t smile at the jollity of these clothes – the table cloth of red and white spots thrown over a charming floral full skirt? And that, plus a sparkling bathing cap with a leopard pattern was only the front. From the rear view, there were more layers of puffy decorations, including one that had what looked like soup bowls with shimmering services. It was all, in old-fashioned English words, quite ‘bonkers’. But also great fun.

The designer has done these kind of pile-up objects before, but they have always seemed angry, even enraged, visions of an apocalypse round the corner. In this show, there was an element of fashion entertainment – maybe a sly dig at front row fixations. On a long runway with old-fashioned lights swinging above, Rei Kawakubo achieved the unbelievable: turning her solemn cultural aesthetic into fun – or as Sontag wrote about the artifice of camp, “converting the serious into the frivolous”.

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood: the party plays on

With her husband and now chief designer Andreas Kronthaler at her side, Vivienne Westwood joined in at the end of the non-stop fun that had wild dancers on three podiums which were navigated by boys dressed as girls, but not really vice versa.

As ever, the overall theme was sex – a punk and pretty mash-up of peasant people with low bodices and full skirts; sex kittens (both sexes) in cat suits and wildly patterned or silvered underwear.

As if there were not enough to look at among the wearable dresses in a mix of materials or men in flowery shorts, there was the entertainment of models falling off their mighty platform shoes, just as a young Naomi Campbell had done all those years ago.

Kronthaler has rebooted looks from far down memory lane. But he gives them a youthful vibe, especially with a line-up in the audience of music groups or just fans, none of them old enough to have been around in the 1980s melee of punks and New Romantics.