La Scala is an exceptionally cheesy discotheque on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. Favored by package-tour ravers, it features a video wall playing MTV dating disasters. In bikinis. Not the kind of place you'd expect to hear Ella Fitzgerald singing or, even more so, expect to see Rei Kawakubo's latest collection. But all these elements came together with surprising seamlessness in one disorienting, dystopian package for Comme des Garçons' fall show.
Rei's enduring affection for Vivienne Westwood found an explicit outlet in clothes that took the teddy boy proportions of Viv's first foray into fashion design (Let it Rock) and combined them with the iconoclasm of punk's seedbed, Viv and Malcolm McLaren's legendary Seditionaries. She applied graphics adapted from Jamie Reid, punk's Leonardo, to a distressed drape jacket. Another jacket was deconstructed with zippers. Classic tweeds and glen plaids were bisected by brutal plaid inserts, or overprinted and degraded, as though hungry rodents had been gnawing on them. And the slogans branded on the clothing? "Closing Down Sale," "Last Days," and the timeless "No Future."
But the fact that such glass-half-empty sentiments shared cloth with a determination to specify the season in which these outfits were being presented (i.e., "Comme des Garçons Autumn/Winter 2008") hinted at a different agenda, one that recognized the primacy of the moment. Carpe diemcould that be Rei's latest message?
P.S. In a chapeau-obsessed season (from Chaplin's bowler to Suggs's porkpie), you'd be hard-pressed to beat Stephen Jones' peerless top hats. For some reason, they made one think of that old line about elegance being refusal.