Whatever Rei Kawakubo is evoking in her shows can never be captured by a laundry list of fabrics and shapes: It's all about the emotional tension. For a woman of very few words (at least in English) and seemingly iron reserve, the feelings she can unleash are unruly and hard to name, yet always seem to be getting at something near the knuckle. This season, the mood felt poignant, a mysterious welling up of symbolism caused by looking at multiple layers of flesh-colored tulle, veiled face masks, and pyramidal layerings constructed from pieces of jackets, sweaters, and parts of blankets. Were these vulnerable innocents abroad cocooned in protective layers against the harshness of the world?
"Wonderland," Kawakubo called it afterward, "where nothing is as it seems." There was something of trompe l'oeil involved, in a childlike kind of way. Naked toes were sketched on the uppers of men's lace-ups and moccasins, and the outlines of jackets were drawn on the front of some garments. Tailcoats were superimposed on larger greatcoats. Sections of khaki fatigues, or maybe military tents, were collaged in. Ethnic blanket prints became involved, too. And then, finally, there were super-fragile silhouettes that had pale, padded blanket edgings sewn in to indicate vestigial jackets. Conclusions were hard to draw, unless it was an allusive statement about the difficulty of understanding anything in these most confusing of times.
As to wearability? Once dismantled and seen on a rail in the Comme des Garçons showroom, Kawakubo's work normally becomes easier to incorporate into a real wardrobe. At a guess, there will be many coat options, and the netting pieces could translate as useful styling accessories over cocktail or eveningwear. And anyway: Kawakubo is so smart at retail practice that she will undoubtedly (as always) be rendering the ideas in this collection down to a line of T-shirts.