It should surprise no one that, in a season overloaded with brash prints and saturated color, Rei Kawakubo, ever the contrarian, decided to go with pure white. “White drama” was her typically terse but never more dead-on description of her spring collection, which opened with an ivory satin long-sleeved dress, straight at front and a full bouffant skirt in the back. The model, veiled and piled high with a solid white headpiece, proceeded at a snail’s pace, her hands folded piously in front and appeared to be tied together at the wrists with a big, fat bow. Bound for marriage? Quite literally, in this case.
Kawakubo riffed on formal white dresses in ivory satin and embroidered white lace that are inextricably associated with brides and other virginal religious ceremonies. She painted a picture of romantic innocence, decorating her cartoonish proportions — sleeves that fell past the knee — like she was icing a wedding cake with roses, some blooming, some wilting. Whatever sense of occasion and joy the white froth conveyed was promptly distorted, as Kawakubo cannot help but be perverse. She imprisoned the girls in skirts that looked like padded cages and capes done in grand couture shapes but no armholes. Some dresses were tight and completely restrictive with head-swallowing hoods.
Provocation is expected from Kawakubo, who is at her most impressive when she makes something strangely beautiful, like the majority of this collection, as opposed to when she tries to shock — i.e., the pointed white hoods. She was better with the series of capes terrifically graffitied with what looked like barbed lightning bolds. After all these years Kawakubo is still a punk.