see the full comme des garçons cover story here
Celebrate Rei Kawakubo’s creative resistance in this Mario Sorrenti-shot editorial starring captivating new face Adut Akech.
Photography Mario Sorrenti. Fashion director Alastair McKimm.
This article originally appeared in The Radical Issue, no. 351, Spring 2018.
There was something incongruous about the beginnings of Rei Kawakubo's spring/summer 18 Comme des Garçons show. The opening look? A suit jacket and exploding skirt of Victorian proportions in lush printed velvet, rendered with the floral arrangements of Dutch master Abraham Mignon.
The season was full of artist collaborations, but Kawakubo's appropriation of nine artists seemed to reflect the jumpy attention spans of modern life. From the contemplative gentility of Mignon's floral still lifes and the subtle ink strokes of 16th century Japanese monk Sessun Shukei, we switched to E-Boy's pixel landscapes, the skate culture art of Stefan Marx, and the cartoonish faces of Serge Vollin staring back at you like colourful emojis. Even the 16th century surreal fruit-and-veg portraiture of Giuseppe Arcimboldo had a kitschy quality to it. Kawakubo was visually baiting us with her "multi-dimensional graffiti" -- the cryptic phrase proffered up this season -- "It's as if the graffiti on the wall has come alive," Adrian Joffe added.
Last year Kawakubo's visionary acts of fashion rebellion were consecrated by the Metropolitan Museum in New York with Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. If the exhibition at the Met allowed Kawakubo to parse her work through fundamental themes, this collection felt like a giddy respite to that process of heavy curation, with Kawakubo extracting that thrill of seeing Comme for the first time.
As Kawakubo takes stock of Comme's post-Met entrenchment in popular culture, the popular concepts of Japanese kawaii and obsessive otaku (geek) culture come into play. They're notions that define our perception of Japanese style, but she added shades of depth to those oft-used words, for a newly hyper-obsessed fanbase acquired through the exhibition.
Colours of teenage innocence -- red, flesh and white were tufted into patchwork like remnants of a girl's trousseau. Trinkets of Harajuku's Takeshita Dori piled up on Julien d'Ys' sculpted shock of crimped hair like a tribute to the now defunct Fruits magazine. Twinkle-eyed dreamer girls of Makoto Takahashi stared back at you on trailing robes, exuding optimism and affection. Those aforementioned artists collaged and piled up together in an amorphous melange, sometimes with angel wings, like an Akihabara mascot swooping down to save the world from banal commercialism.
As celebratory and exuberant as the clothes were for spring/summer 18, there was something sombre in it too. Self, other. Order, chaos. Life, loss. All those big, significant ideas articulated at the Met that you can't quite escape; even with the presence of Hello Kitty paraphernalia, bolshy painted flowers and a manga girl pleading at you with her big blue eyes.
Text Susie Lau. Taken from her Comme des Garçons spring/summer 18 show review.
Photography Mario Sorrenti
Fashion director Alastair McKimm
Hair Recine at The Wall Group using Rodim
Make-up Kanako Takase at Streeters using Nars Cosmetics
Nail technician Honey at Exposure
Set design Philipp Haemmerle
Lighting technician Lars Beaulieu
Photography assistance So Yoshimura
Digital technician Kotaro Kawashima
Styling assistance Sydney Rose Thomas, Maggie Holladay and Desiree Adedje
Hair assistance Kabuto Okuzawa
Make-up assistance Megumi Onishi
Set design assistance Ryan Stegner
Production Katie Fash and Steve Sutton
Casting director Samuel Scheinman for DMCASTING
Model Adut Akech at The Society
Adut wears all clothing Comme des Garçons. Hats stylist’s studio.