Is she a good witch or a bad witch? She’s an audacious witch — would Rei Kawakubo conjure her differently? — and she’s blue. Except for her hair, red and plasticized, piled high and wide, and her black Kewpie-doll lips.
In choosing a witch as her spring muse, perhaps Kawakubo wanted to telegraph that yes, there is some serious magic at play here. After so many years, her Comme des Garçons codes — the pilings! — are as familiar in their way as a braid-trimmed tweed suit or a Bar jacket. Yet they continue to hold us in thrall. Extraordinary compilations of flat and 3-D shapes into sculptural wonders, they’re always heady and sometimes hilarious.
Most remarkable: their lack of randomness. Abstract as they are, Kawakubo’s assemblages trigger associations in the manner of an out-there sartorial Rorschach test. With its deep-blues base, her spring lineup projected moody sinister, interjected as it was with moments of bright white. She worked largely in velvets and fake furs, the latter in a range from astrakhan to AstroTurf. And there were feathers, piles of them, imbuing the high-minded artiness with an haute decadence of the most outré sort.
About those associations: here, they swung both living and non. For reasons impossible to articulate, several exits had an Elizabethan je ne sais quoi (we really don’t), while a white feathered, multistrapped and buckled number could have been Klimt’s Emilie Flöge in the insane asylum. As for inanimate connections, a huge tuft of circular ruching recalled a big, side-turned ottoman, and a knee-length blue look secured in back with giant black X resembled — a coat!
It’s easy to think of Kawakubo as existing in her own universe, blissfully (or haughtily) unaware of any reality beyond her own. Mistake! The woman built and controls a global powerhouse of a business, and you don’t do that from a wackily appointed ivory tower. Case in point: Her spring shoes, winklepickers with toe points pointing north. You think she’s never heard of “The Wizard of Oz”?