#SuzyPFW Comme des Garçons: Redefining Real Clothes
Not since the ‘lumps and bumps’ collection at Comme des Garçons 21 years ago has there been such a powerfully personal show by Rei Kawakubo.
As then, the Spring/Summer 2019 collection seemed both deeply inward looking – yet also a general commentary about womanhood. Except that this presentation, held in a small box-like space in the historic Beaux-Arts building, comes in the wake of a series of ten shows that were deliberately separated from the reality of dressing the body.
Those ‘garments’ of past years could barely be defined with that word, because they were modulated from unfathomable materials. The designer explored the meaning of fashion as art, forged in unexpected fabrications from waste paper to floor coverings.
Via Adrian Joffe, the designer’s husband, pillar of support and company president, Rei explained that she was now retreating from fashion as an artistic statement. It was back to reality. And surely reality begins with the self?
“I wanted to exhaust the way of creation, to see how far I could take making powerful clothes, even to the point where the clothes became abstract, while the clothes for the stores maintained the spirit of the collection,” she explained.
“This time, after ten collections, I felt this approach was no longer new,” she continued. “I looked for what is next, but I couldn’t find it. In the end there was a profoundly internal approach.”
What exactly that meant to each member of the small show was also personal. Did the models’ grey hair signify the ageing process? (The designer herself is aged 75 although she has made zero effort to slow down.)
More awkward still was to question the padded protrusion under clothing. Rei has no children, but it seemed intrusive to assume a connection with her private life.
Then there were the chains clanking under dress hems. ‘Woman is born free and everywhere she is in chains’ could be another interpretation.
The newspaper prints on leggings could also have been significant. But more telling still was the perfect cut of the coat that covered them – just one example among the 30 covetable outfits in black, white and grey, with some florals, text prints and abstract patterns that looked like cells under a microscope.
I have no idea if I interpreted accurately the meaning of the collection. But I register Rei Kawakubo as one of the greatest designers of her fashion generation.
And as she put it so succinctly: “Comme des Garçons is not about outwardly evident design and expression. It is what’s deep inside.”