What was it that made Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo, the leading light of intellectual fashion, decide to show at the Lido, the Parisian nightclub famed for its high-kickin' dancers? As Kawakubo┐s show progressed, no clear answer emerged. What the models wore was certainly a whole lot more substantial than anything that has graced the stage of the Lido in the past: The designer reworked the black jacket, showing it with full leg-o'-mutton sleeves and trimmed with bows and feathers. Some of these jackets were twisted around or looked like they┐d been intricately cut to be worn tied onto the body. In turn, they were partnered with endless variations on a black skirt: some with pleated taffeta bustles, others designed to be worn backward, a few short versions veiled in tulle. Also thrown into the equation were a few pairs of striped, pleated pants that looked like they might have started life as part of a morning suit.

What was clear was that Kawakubo was on tried-and-tested ground, returning to concepts she has explored in the past: the Victorian and Edwardian eras; the boundaries between masculine and feminine; and the purity of black. Still, those themes didn┐t stop the imagination from running riot, dreaming up little narratives to explain just why she had chosen this venue. Perhaps her muse was some kind of starchy, turn of the century governess who had run off to a life of debauchery and been ravished at the club? That would certainly explain the askew jackets and the smeared red lipstick. When it comes to Kawakubo's clothes, the possibilities are of course endless—which is sometimes how this show felt. There were some truly excellent pieces—the duchesse satin evening coats, in particular—but her showgirls could have gotten the messages across with far fewer turns.