If Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garçons collection last season was about "crushing," a kind of nuclear fusion of clothing, this collection was the big bang. It produced, as Kawakubo titled it, "the infinity of tailoring."
To say this collection is complex is something of an understatement. Today, at the metal workshop in which it was shown, there was an equal sense of intense, detailed labor in what Kawakubo produced. The catwalk was tight, compact, with the audience brought close to be able to see the phenomenal quality of this clothing. There were things here that might at first appear to be mere decoration—the cascading swatches of fabric; the rosettes; the bows; the thick, serpentine, and biomorphic shapes; the rounded, flounced Belle Époque bustles at the back of some of the trousers—but in fact, they were all built into the very nature of these clothes. The pattern cutting made every element integral to the tailoring of what loosely, and reductively, might be described as "suits"—the infinity of tailoring, indeed.
This was a whole microcosmos of fashion, a parallel universe. When asked about color, Kawakubo replied, "You can even do that with tailoring." This is not actually as obtuse a statement as it first sounds. The opening black-and-white houndstooth and pinstripe looks had something op art-ish about them; the tailoring made the eye mix color optically. Then, of course, there was a literal and joyful explosion of it in the later looks; an outsider artist called Daniel Michiels had been commissioned by Kawakubo to add his voice in the form of these multicolored prints. And that is not to mention the burned wigs the models wore, intensely colored and then partially destroyed by the hairdresser Julien d'Ys. Maybe if you stand this close to creation, you are going to get burned.
In a season of introspection, where designers are looking inwardly and personally to find their way, Rei Kawakubo once again proves she is at the frontiers of this inner exploration. The designer is a believer in pure creation through the language of fashion. In the current battle between creativity and the marketeer's idea of "the brand," she is leading the charge. There are only a few designers who can make a whole world of difference, a universe even, through their very existence in this industry—she is one of them.