As the European fashion season kicks off, the industry is experiencing a collective reset. From big heritage houses to indie designers, everyone seems to be veering away from the casual and back towards classic tailoring and investment dressing. This year, Comme des Garçons, one of the most innovative and unconventional fashion houses, also announced its own return to source.
But, as always, Rei Kawakubo did it her way. The Comme des Garçons show at the American Cathedral in Paris was a breathtaking display of supercharged dressmaking. Kawakubo crumpled, folded, and molded fabrics into bulbous, square, and flat shapes that were light years from classic, yet unmistakably Comme des Garçons.
Models emerged in pairs, trios, or quads, each with their own genre of music that blared and ended abruptly, adding to the overall surreal and otherworldly ambiance of the show. The opening statement featured padded, squarish tops reminiscent of Minecraft characters paired with orb-shaped skirts bearing bagel-like or shaggy embroideries. The models’ hair pointed straight up towards the ceiling like tall cones of soft-serve ice cream.
The show progressed to flat, wide expanses of black polyester, arranged in channels and edged in frothy ruffles, like whipping cream edging pieces of dark chocolate. Kawakubo dispensed with tailoring and prerequisites like sleeves to create wondrous dresses in entirely new shapes, each one more surreal than the last. One soft cube-shaped dress featured a big Peter Pan collar; another was reminiscent of a castanet clacking over the hips, while yet another resembled a big furry Philippe Starck table lamp.
As the show continued, some clothes looked like accumulations of shirt collars and inside-out tailoring, while others took on the appearance of freestyle origami. The trio of bell-shaped finale dresses had strange cages orbiting them, with one spectator spying a tuning fork and another getting tarantula vibes.
Despite the unconventional shapes and designs, Kawakubo has the guts and the design chops to produce small quantities of these gravity-defying, otherworldly clothes for her boutiques. Her followers, who are equally gutsy, are drawn to these avant-garde creations, as evidenced by the two women wearing oversized garments from the Comme des Garçons Spring/Summer 2022 and 2023 collections.
As the models paraded down the runway, sitting on small folding chairs was a feat in such contraptions, but they did it anyway. Comme des Garçons continues to push boundaries, challenge norms, and inspire awe in the fashion world. And, in a season where everyone seems to be hitting the reset button, Kawakubo’s return to source is a welcome reminder that true innovation lies in breaking away from the pack and forging one’s own path.