“I realized the clothes could be the body and the body could be the clothes.” Rei Kawakubo once said this of her spring 1997 “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” women’s collection. The same revelation appeared to apply to this Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus show. For where conventionally
the finest tailoring is fashioned to fit, and flatter the masculine form within it, this take used that form as a plinth upon which to construct a wild new anatomy.
The guidance was that this was “Tailoring of the avant-garde.” Tailoring only became generically masculine in usage because its origins are military, and when tailoring was developed, the military was exclusively pour des garçons. Avant-garde is also an originally military concept—used to refer to the advance party that first attempts to disrupt the status quo before the larger mass follows—but which now refers to the experimentally progressive, whatever their identity.
Tonight Kawakubo applied her experimental instinct to sally forth against the massed ranks of tailoring’s status quo, leaving it scattered to the winds in glorious disarray. She did this in waves, shifting the focus of her exceptional, force majeure urge to upend the relationship between body and garment. The first wave focused on the shoulder in three all-black looks, one beskirted, whose top halves held the arms against the body and pulled the shoulders wide and high. The second probe featured tailoring whose fabric was patterned with the work of Edward Goss, a London-based Canadian artist whose rune-meets-hieroglyph presented a conventionally unreadable script. These surfaced suiting whose canvassing swole not at the shoulder but at the chest, or on the back of the pink look in a long tubular limb—a sort of brain tail—that fell from the top of the spine down to the waist.
Next came a quick one-two: a brace of looks in the candy colored hues of societal gender-signaling. The first, frosted pink, look (pants) featured a long single vent topcoat that was split south from each nipple by a to-the-thigh open zipper. The second, baby blue, (pleated kilt) featured a notch lapel two-button jacket over a double-layer satin shirt with an empty zipper-split sleeve that again fell down the spine from the collar.
Then followed the emergence of a theme that, by sheer coincidence, made me think of the upcoming exhibition that I’d only just heard of from my charming benchmate from WWD as we waited for the last latecomer to arrive pre-show. Opening in April at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs the show entitled Des Cheveux et Des Poils will explore the relationship between hair, including body hair, and its representation and manipulation in art and fashion. Many of this show’s late looks should be considered for last-minute inclusion. These began with a silver and black jacquard herringbone suit with two virile pelts of black faux fur that ran down from collar to each thigh (in a shape echoing an earlier bump-suit). Kawakubo then repeated her other sculptural fortifications in fur, before pivoting to tailoring that featured empty space instead of emphasis. This was articulated in meander-edged cutout panels on pale pastel jackets that came edged in more of that primal fur. Look 17’s shrunken jacket featured gothic-regal panels of fur at shoulder and hip, and above it Takeo Arai’s spiked-high negative bangs and a headpiece by Gary Card or Valeriane Venance (they designed all the millinery separately) acted as tortured corona.
Then another paradigm shift, this time towards check, in a series of four looks that again cloaked the arms and featured extra limbs, the last two arms reaching forward from the rib cage. Kawakubo pivoted again, back to black, with looks including a darkly ironic black-on-black camo jacquard topcoat and more worn prosthetics. Two sleeveless jackets, black, in moire and brushed, piled wool—both worn over miniskirts—were reminiscent of the Balenciaga cape dress so memorably shot by David Bailey.
At the last, look 32 onwards, the notion of tailoring faded away—or at least its conventional architecture did. Instead of defined lapel, sliced skirt and precisely built shoulder we saw a series of black duets featuring more fur-fringed cut-outs and bottoms that ran from shorts to jodhpurs. Goss made an oversized return with his found alphabet scrawls. Kawakubo had disrupted her starting point so comprehensively there was nothing left in the conventional anatomy of tailoring against which to revolt.