comme des garçons tells the world to fuck off
“Finding beauty in the dark, there is no light without dark.” Rei Kawakubo
Photography Mitchell Sams
The sociopolitical climate of 2019 is a dark, dark place. If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention. On the eve of the tenth week of the Giles Jaunets protests, Rei Kawakubo harnessed the mood of Paris and beyond with a defiant demonstration of creative resistance before reminding us that there’s beauty to be found in this darkness.
When Rei Kawakubo speaks, we listen. And we heed her words carefully. So often cryptic, poetic and philosophical, her show titles -- Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, Lumps and Bumps, Bad Taste, 2 Dimensions, Infinity of Tailoring and Not Making Clothes are all personal favourites -- and rare interview snippets leave us, her devoted followers, scrambling to fill in the blanks. For her Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus autumn/winter 19 show, she shared a poetic sentence: “Finding beauty in the dark, there is no light without dark.” This was shared after a ferocious frenzy of a fashion show.
Comme des Garçons’s Rei Kawakubo has been bending and breaking the rules of clothing for five decades. She has challenged the status quo through radical references, silhouette shake-ups, and transformative technical mastery. Her visionary acts of fashion rebellion might have been consecrated by the Metropolitan Museum in New York with Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, but the revolution continues, often in noir. Back in 1982, Kawakubo presented the provocative, all-black everything Destroy collection in Paris and shook the fashion world to its core. At the time, it was condemned by the French press as “Hiroshima chic” but it was hailed by her growing cult of “crows”. 37 years later and she presented another poetic provocative, (mostly) all-black everything.
Guests were guided to their seats inside the underground venue in the darkness. Packed in tightly with the bass of the LA-based “Australian Death Pop” band VOWWS throbbing through our rib cages, the mood was ominous. The catwalk pit photographers huddled around an intense, flash spotlight. Under Rei’s spell, we waited in the darkness. And waited. Then, when the live VOWWS performance kicked in, the catwalk became a swaggering, snarling club dancefloor.
Models had an after-dark beauty makeover of black lipstick, smudged eyeliner and dyed hair -- one model had a green arrow shaved into his head, the other a “R.I.P.” message -- but it wasn’t goth, glam, punk or dark electro. It was ever genre-defying Comme des Garçons. Beneath the spiked shackle necklaces and harnesses, there was two-for-one tailoring trickery that fused layers, there was cut, pasted and manipulated binary-blurring clubwear, and a first look at the Comme customized Air Jordan. The final modelled flipped his middle finger at the photographer pit. We all loved it. Only Rei Kawakubo can tell us to fuck off and receive applause. Then the VOWWS set ended, Rei turned out her light of creative resistance and we were plunged into darkness again. Allow Comme des Garçons to be your lighthouse, better times wait ahead.