Watching a Comme des Garçons show is to witness a masterclass in haute fashion engineering, in sociopolitical alertness, and in an original and poetic design language.
How to explain the rush of emotions unleashed from the opening look of Rei Kawakubo’s show on Saturday night: A giant hood draped in black lace, its deep crumples of white cloth framing a tiny face peering out tentatively.
The world is full of pain and alarm, not only over the war in Ukraine, but the rise of intolerance, the loss of freedoms and a worrisome tilt toward more repressive styles of government.
“A lamentation for the sorrow in the world today. And a feeling of wanting to stand together” were the two phrases the Japanese maverick released to explain the collection, her first shown on a Paris runway since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kawakubo’s parade of colossal hooded shapes took your mind to “The Handsmaid’s Tale,” of course, and all its sinister implications. In profile, they sometimes resembled the horn-shaped vents on old cruise ships, which made you think about the migrant crisis, too.
You could read this collection on other levels, and it was pure design ingenuity on steroids. Every exit revealed a never-seen-before shape; sometimes strange, often beautiful, all executed in beautiful brocades, rich lace and other dressy and ceremonial fabrics.
She pushed the center of gravity downward and bulging outward — the Empire line literally turned on its head. A Disney princess dress look dipped in tar and it was worn upside down, the puffy sleeves serving as offbeat pantaloons. Flattering? Not really. But it woke up and challenged the eye, as Kawakubo’s daring propositions always do.
A bubble of stiff white ruffles interspersed with wispy feathers offered an interlude of calm and beauty, for hope always lurks in the shadows cast by Kawakubo’s exploration of dark subjects.
Simone Rocha and Rick Owens were among the designers transfixed by the solemn display on a plain gray runway.
“I wished it could have gone on forever,” Owens said as he exited, and was swarmed by street-style photographers, attracted by either his fame or his Frankenstein thigh boots. “I’m always talking about doing things that promote thinking outside of what’s conventional, and she really puts her money where her mouth is, doesn’t she?”