Comme des Garçons
March 05, 2010 Paris
Pillow-form outcrops of padding placed on shoulders, hips, backs, and bodices were the essence of Kawakubo's experiments this time. In resolute defiance of conventional notions of female body enhancement, they added bulk and heft to all the places fashion avoids if it seeks to flatter and make sexy—two things that have never been part of the job description Kawakubo has accepted. We are on different terms here, forced into the field of the visual associations the designer triggers, rather than struggling to sum it up in the usual ways.
It's funny where the mind goes when that happens. What, for instance, were the coiled sections of interior padding arranged between waist and knee in garments that can loosely—very loosely—be described as shorts? Were they something akin to the folds of a shar-pei's skin, or (dare we think it?) a reference to intestines? Then, when Kawakubo turned from black to white, were the smooth, undulating mounds on the skirts starting to look like freshly fallen drifts of snow? Beautiful, but was it intended?
For students of Comme des Garçons, the hunchbacked and pigeon-breasted zones of wadding might be reminiscent of the notorious "lumps and bumps" collection of Spring 1997. That landmark work has kept fashion theoreticians writing treatises ever since, but it's never been satisfactorily explained, and certainly no further elucidation has ever come from Kawakubo. Her work is only ever offered as a fashion Rorschach test, within which we find out about what discomfits, annoys, confounds, and maybe tickles us when our expectations are denied. In the age of instant communication from shows, the impenetrability of Kawakubo's design at this particular moment might also be construed as a piece of passive resistance to dumbed-down commentary. Capture this one in 140 characters, Twitterati!