"Invisible Clothes" for Comme des Garçons at Paris Fashion Week SS17

"Invisible clothes" may have been mentioned in the press release as inspiration for Rei Kawakubo's latest offering for Spring/Summer '17 but it was anything but, literally speaking. One, for sure would expect garments to be made from some sort of clear fabric, especially when considering her menswear collection in June, "The King is Naked" featured a lot of clear PVC. Since forever with Comme, you've always had to read the cryptic clues between the lines. Were it in fact that the clothes weren't invisible, but rather the girls were invisible? Hidden inside those huge sculptural ensembles? One of very little who questions the fashion industry, Rei Kawakubo's shows constantly and consistently challenges the system, and whether what she presents is actually "fashion." Whatever is was, further exploration revealed that the collection was "the purest and most extreme version of Comme des Garçons."

Comme des Garçons collections, particularly the women's collections have more recently became less about fashion itself and selling, and more about creating art-like pieces, visually striking with deep meaningful impacts. Such skill has awarded Rei Kawakubo to be the subject of next Spring's Met Exhibition. Well, it is yet to be confirmed, but Andrew Bolton, who curates the art, was sat front row alongside Anna Wintour, who made her first appearance at a Comme show after a several season hiatus. Anna Wintour is also responsible for the massive charity event/dinner that opens the exhibition, usually referred to as the Met Gala. Backstage after the show she congratulated Rei Kawakubo on her latest collection - "and to say how pleased I am that we will be working together." If true, it'll be making Rei Kawakubo, the 73-year old Japanese designer who founded her label in 1969, only the second living designer alive at the time to be the sole focus of the show, the first being Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. Miuccia Prada was honoured in 2012, but as only half of the exhibition, Impossible Conversations with Elsa Schiaparelli.

Rei Kawakubo isn't just an incredible designer, she also oversees a mammoth-sized fashion, business and retail empire, of whom she shares with business partner and husband of twenty-four years, Adrian Joffe. The pair married in 1992. The empire in question, brings in a annual revenue of an estimated $260m. Despite her commercial success (I touched on this earlier), her shows remain an absolute distillation of her view: small, intimate, installation-like collections of only few looks, 17 for Spring 2017. Like artworks, Kawakubo's shows are a riddle of references and ideas, you look at her collections in search of an emotional connection, mood or vision as oppose to a new "it" piece that season. A search for an emotional connection so strong, that if you don't understand straight away, you begin thinking that there might be something wrong with yourself. Spring/Summer 2017 continued along the route of the physically enormous and daunting proportions, encasing models inside and protecting them. I have never seen clothes of such intimidation have so much of a vulnerability aspect attached to their meaning. Not just physically beautiful, but emotionally to. They had a funeral austerity to them, almost like pilgrims - black and white with huge Peter Pan collars, but not like the mourning and coffin interior fabrics of AW15. Melting plastic headpieces were also adorned by models, made from acetate and as though dripping down the face like waterfalls, of course crafted by the exceptionally talented Julien d'Ys. As with past collections, it's Rei Kawakubo's provoking questions as oppose to easily-read answers that has allowed Comme des Garçons to stand the test of time, above everybody else, but far from in a derogatory way.

Images courtesy of Dazed Digital and Vogue Runway

The Wolf of High Street


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