While Rei Kawakubo jauntily spliced the Union Jack last spring, this season’s rising-sun motif seemed a whole lot more poignant. Was there a hidden meaning to flagwear sporting giant versions of Japan’s red emblem? Was Kawakubo going philosophical or making a political statement? “Grace and nature,” read one flag T-shirt; “Radiant nature,” read another.

The design represents “perfect design” and “pure beauty,” Kawakubo explained after the show. Well, even if the explanation is as simple as that, she’s still one highbrow flag-waver.

And her approach was hardly simple. Other designers cut; Kawakubo performs surgery. Taking a cubist approach to the everyday, she created complex, meticulously tailored jackets and coats layered over and under those sunspots in a très sophisticated game of peekaboo: Sheer zones peeped through her fine-honed seams, and peel-away panels and gauzy sun-spotted layers overlapped, revealing and veiling, while patches of ruffles frothed across the fronts of some jackets like they’d burst through from underneath. Paired with cascading tulle skirts or with pants made from sheer and opaque patches, the look was bold and graphic — and oddly pretty.

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