Fashion seems to be collectively hitting the reset button this European season. Creative directors at big heritage houses are excavating archives back to the glory days of the founders; indie designers are revisiting their greatest hits or original raison d’être, and everyone seems to be retreating from sneakers, jerseys and logos, leaning into more classic tailoring and investment dressing.
At Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo also declared “a return to source – a feeling of wanting to go back to the starting point, working with free patterns, using basic materials.”
But she did it her way, crumpling, folding, and molding fabrics into a supercharged genre of dressmaking, building out bulbous, square and flat shapes that were light years from classic, yet unmistakably Comme.
Her show at the American Cathedral in Paris unfurled in vignettes, models emerging in pairs, trios or quads, each with their own genre of music that blared and then ended abruptly.
Kawakubo opened with a geometric statement of padded, squarish tops reminiscent of Minecraft characters. These came over orb-shaped skirts bearing bagel-like or shaggy embroideries. The models’ hair pointed straight up toward the ceiling, like tall cones of soft-serve ice cream.
Next came flat, wide expanses of black polyester, arranged in channels and edged in frothy ruffles, like whipping cream edging pieces of dark chocolate.
Kawakubo dispensed with tailoring and prerequisites like sleeves to create wondrous dresses in entirely new shapes; one a soft cube with a big Peter Pan collar; another reminiscent of a castanet clacking over the hips, and yet another a big furry Philippe Starck table lamp.
Some of the clothes looked like accumulations of shirt collars and inside-out tailoring; others freestyle origami. The trio of bell-shaped finale dresses had strange cages orbiting them. One spectator spied a tuning fork; another got tarantula vibes.
Kawakubo has the guts and the design chops to produce small quantities of these gravity defying, otherworldly clothes for her boutiques, and she has a following of gutsy women who buy and wear them.
Before the show, one dressed in a giant, torso-engulfing hood from Comme’s spring 2023 collection jumped up to greet another encased in a spring 2022 look resembling an oversized football printed with cartoonish palm leaves.
Sitting on a small folding chair was a feat in such contraptions, but sit they did.