Designer Rei Kawakubo's latest Comme des Garçons collection, which the cult figure herself described as a "ceremony of separation”, was presented during Sunday's solemn show in the Mineralogy Gallery at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.
The mutants that Kawakubo has engineered bring back memories of her notorious Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress 1997 collection - the "Bump collection" that shook the canons of Western tailoring to the core with bulbous tumors of down. The dreary decadence drips through narrow shrouds bound with ruffles and bows, overblown cocoons, patch-worked or tied into bundles and engulfing models’ frames in a tomb-like fashion. John Waters, in his 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards speech, addressed Kawakubo as "the Saint Teresa of fashion": "I always imagined her locked in a self-imposed, deconstructed cell, like, massacring hemlines for her next season’s “no-dimensional” outfits that will be mocked, brilliantly reviewed, and worn by the brave." Although she doesn't take invisibility to theological extremes like Martin Margiela, Kawakubo rarely gives an interview and no longer takes a bow after her shows. (There's only one photo of Rei smiling that floats around the internet, and if you can find another one, you're a more devoted crow than I am).
Lace was the material predominantly used for these silhouettes, ornately embellished or built with bows—another leitmotif at Comme des Garçons alongside crushed frills, wilted tulle, eyelet and fraying ruffles. Imbued with a patina of ghostly delicacy, the ensembles, despite their sovereign refinement, appear to have been ravaged by moths; the linings come adrift from their scaffolding, the mourner wears their tethered souls on their sleeves.
Kawakubo has pieced together what I imagine the Dickensian Miss Havisham would wear, from her wedding day until her death, mourning a maidenhood abandoned along with its illusions. Ceremony of Separation, in its desolate melancholia, captured the tension between morbidity and the fragile human existence, a vanitas artwork amidst the modern Parisian scenes.
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