Rei Kawakubo has made a legendary career out of proving that the rules don’t apply to her. This has been particularly true in regard to the traditionally strict discipline of classic English tailoring, where jackets are allotted exactly two sleeves; pants, two legs. We well know such limitations do not exist for Kawakubo, who sees endless possibilities to subvert and send up said narrow genre of clothes-cutting, often beautifully so, as she did with her spectacular fall collection.

“The infinity of tailoring,” Kawakubo mumbled backstage post-show, with her husband Adrian Joffe offering, “Everything you can do with a jacket and pants.” For instance, swirl a houndstooth suit into a garden of rosettes, or bubble and twist the sleeves of a jacket into rings akin to a child’s inflatable swimmies. The majority of the lineup was devoted to men’s wear fabrics — pinstripes and gray Prince of Wales — bursting with hyper-feminine treatments. A mini-houndstooth coat was tied up in bows, as if in protest of its Y chromosome, and the legs of low-slung trousers were sewn into rosettes, over which was a half-skirt made of fabric flaps piled on like raw ruffles. 

One might describe the constructions and cuts, especially giant pants pinched together in the front and the back as if they were still on the hanger, as clunky; but there was an elegant harmony to the compositions. And then came the finale, when Kawakubo broke with her masculine inclinations and unleashed a frenzy of color in clashing patterns and floral fabrics that were proudly tacky. It’s the first time this season that bad taste looked so good.

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