With his back-combed tizz of jet-black hair, his polka-dot pantsuit, and his girly red shoes, the first model in Comme des Garçons' show today could have been Johnny Thunders looking for his next New York Dolls gig. The Dolls' carelessness found its most florid expression in their clothes, gender-free bits of vintage tat and glitz. The black bouclé jacket with trailing threads of lamé from this collection would probably have ended up on guitarist Sylvain Sylvain. But then, several outfits later in the show, there were pinstriped skirts and little hats attached to heads with moiré ribbons and, with that bird's nest hair, the boys started to look like the hell-raising schoolgirls of St. Trinian's.
And right there, in the shadow land between the New York Dolls and the girls of St. Trinian's, Rei Kawakubo had nailed the theme of her new collection: Neither Man Nor Woman. She was helped by the fact that the style most akin to the one she had consistently applied to her models was goth, which has an innately sexless essence. The bird's nest hair could have come from the wigs stand of The Cure's Robert Smith, King of Goth. The doomy, echoing soundtrack could equally easily have come from Cure acolytes. And the clothes that straddled the gender gap, neither fish nor fowl, included swing-back coats appliquéd with Gothic roses; cropped, tapered urchin pants; brocaded tartan suits; and an abstracted naïve print of zodiac signs, which, here, had a Blair Witch feel. It seemed absolutely appropriate that the collection looked its best when the models massed listlessly together at show's end. It wasn't just strength in numbers. It was also much easier to appreciate the tribalism that underpins the Comme des Garçons ethos. This time, it wasn't "like the boys," or even "like the girls." It was "like us all."