I imagine a Comme des Garcons fashion show as one of those study groups where psychologists get volunteers, put them in uncanny situations, and then record their reactions for research. In this case, designer Rei Kawakubo is behind the two-way glass and we the attendees are the volunteers in the box (and in some ways, paying for the privilege). Why do I feel this?
Because there is more freedom in a Comme collection than you’ll find on any other runway. And that makes people nervous and self-conscious and unsteady…as if there is a “right” or “wrong” answer to her designs that will never be found. That makes it so hard to take authority on a subject. For example, most designers will feed the media a theme of a collection, and they can sometimes ramble on for pages.
As for Rei Kawakubo?
私には、Comme des Garconsのファッションショーは心理学者らがボランティア
“The only way to create something new was to start without the intention of making clothes,” Rei told WWD on what her 2014 SS collection was about. That was what she was working with this season. And most other seasons, she will have just one keyword. So then, that leaves journalists both pro and amateur, trying to guess what is going on.
And if her shows are like puzzles, then this 2014 SS one was a doozy! Held in the Place Vendome in an under-construction site, there was a wooden ramp as a runway and lights that moved like a pendulum concurrent with the model. Sometimes she’d be shrouded in darkness when normally the spotlight would be full-blast. Each design seemed to fail to have any linking themes. Sometimes they were large and curvy, sometimes boxy…there were pink frills and then dark and bulbous silhouettes. Each look even had it’s own music! Which jerked as it stopped and started (The old circus music with the pink exoskeleton really brought in a electrifying atmosphere) . Most of the avant-garde shapes were unclassifiable. And there were far less designs on the runway than usual; only 23.
I had this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach… is this like a retrospective? Are we going to get an announcement of retirement or some otherwise devastating news after this??
And then as it finished, the applause roared. And roared. And roared.
Do they all know something I don’t?? Is this a test??? OH MY GOD… it seemed like Rei was *actually* going to come out and take a “bow”. Something she has NEVER done in her entire career. Oh no, oh no, oh no…don’t let it be so.
But the applause kept going. Bill Cunningham in the best seat with a view backstage, kept bringing his camera to his face, as if she was coming out. And the applause kept going… this is where I imagined myself in that focus group with the scientists. It definitely must be a test?!
but she didn’t…eventually, we all settled defeat and the claps subsided. Adrian Joffe shrugged with a smile that said, “We tried.”
It wasn’t until I saw the clothes up close in the Tokyo headquarters that I noticed subtle links to the looks. A paper-like fabric printed with different colors and a floral pattern ran throughout the collection. As did thick piping and canvas. Still, seeing the looks altogether at once still made it seem like each was unique. Like a small village dressed all in their own favorite Comme des Garcons piece.
So then I am still at a loss as to what to call this collection in one idea. Only Rei knows exactly what it’s all about, and as the scientist behind that glass, releasing that knowledge will surely tarnish the results of letting us consume and digest it on our own.
How the collection is “translated” for laymen… even though every runway piece can actually be ordered:
So eat this as a bonus: These amazing shoe “covers”, some of them painted by hand
Assistant editor: Lisa Ishiwata