Rei Kawakubo is a senior voice in Japanese design, and, in a broader sense, a foreign ambassador for all that can be creative and free-thinking about her nation. In a way—an allusive way, admittedly—she acknowledged that fact for the first time in her spring collection. A giant red spot, the symbol of the Japanese flag, was unmistakably at the center of her collection. "To me," she said, "It is the purest form of design in existence."

Since Japan is at a highly sensitive turning point, with an assertive new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, having just been voted in, it was hard not to see that red spot as the elephant in the Comme des Garçons room. Kawakubo is a channeler of emotion, of course, not a political agitator or commentator. But she took the opportunity to stamp her feelings about the "pure" Japanese ethos in the words printed below the red circles on her T-shirts: "radiant nature," "simplicity, nature, beauty," and "grace and nature."

In the end, though, Kawakubo's work is always more about subtext than text, and today that part, she claimed, was "Cubism." École des Beaux-Arts surroundings notwithstanding, the clothes—segmented into fragments and reconnected with in-fills of sheer mesh, or delicate overlayers of organza and plastic—didn't seem to have that much to do with Braque and Picasso. She sent out many high-belted deconstructed jackets, worn over shorts or net ballerina skirts. The suiting appeared to be floating apart at the seams, while the dance skirts and white cotton underwraps all bore the Japanese red disc. Overall, the impression was light, unaggressive, and approachable, and the set of Kawakubo's clothes looked like an expression of hope for positive change as Japan's structure slides apart and reconfigures.