One in a series on the clothes that had a moment at Paris Fashion Week:
PARIS — Designer Rei Kawakubo is not one to talk about her inspiration, and even when she offers up a few words to explain it, they tend to be more confusing than enlightening. So when she gave the fashion world “multi-dimensional graffiti” as the clues to understanding her spring 2018 Comme des Garçons collection, the proper and reasonable response was: huh?
Oh, Rei, why do you do us like that?
Let’s examine the puzzle pieces. The collection was presented in a ballroom at the Russian Embassy, a location that led to more than a few wry comments from the American contingent about hacking and the like. The space was both grand and bleak. The stone-colored walls were stark, etched with just a few architectural lines and arches; the ceiling, a complicated maze of corrugated glass chandeliers, with their lights turned down low.
The elevated wooden runway was made of rough, chipped planks of plywood that looked to have been recycled from a trash heap. A soundtrack cranked out Lisa Stansfield and other pop tunes.
The models emerged wearing enormous court dresses with panniers and hoops. The fabrics were a stunning mix of pop-art prints and the hallucinogenic still-lifes of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. In total, ten different artists were referenced. The models’ hair, done up in what might best be described as variations on an 18th century high-top fade, was embedded with all sorts of cheap toys: plastic dolls and ice cream cones, as well as other bits of childish ephemera.
Graffiti, by definition, is something scrawled illicitly on a public structure. So perhaps the point of Kawakubo’s Saturday evening show was that these young women, this fashion, this art, this explosion of color and chaos and free expression, are in their entirety, illicit. Not because of their nature — there is nothing wrong with these larger-than-life girls on the cusp of womanhood — but because of where they happen to be: technically, on Russian turf, but also in an official space, of protocols and rules.
Some see graffiti as a blemish. And sometimes it is. But it is also a protest, or a declaration of identity. It has been elevated by thoughtful and creative people into art, too. What once was considered an irritant is now valued.
However these garments might be defined, with their ability to consume space, to mix the past with the present, they are magical. They are canvases stretched wide and full, filled with humor and humanity. And the proper and reasonable response is: Wow.
Also at Paris Fashion Week: