A Comme des Garçons show can often seem like an arcane ritual, whose meaning is ever so slightly out of reach. For her menswear show today, Rei Kawakubo might have been deliberately courting the notion of secret ceremonies. The scene was set by Frederic Sanchez’s standout soundtrack, which mixed the eerie liturgical drone of Jocelyn Pook’s music for the masked ball sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut with the electronica of Italian musician Alessandro Cortini. The clothes were a similar blend of the disciplined and the unhinged, a florid second skin designed by tattoo artist Joseph Ari Aloi, aka JK5, underpinning conservative suitings that had been sliced and reconstituted on the diagonal to create the vertiginous sense of a world slipping sideways.
In a season where word play on clothing has become a major fashion subtext, JK5’s messages seemed particularly pointed, when they were decipherable. « Born to Die » was recurrent, so were statements about beauty, and the exhortation to « Fight Off Your Demons. » To this viewer at least, the ceremonial aspect felt like something to do with the passage of young men to war (an impression that was scarcely lessened by the helmet like hats some of the models were wearing). The presentation journeyed from somber tailoring through the chaos of JK5’s imagery to a series of jackets articulated almost like armor to a closing passage of pure white pieces literally overlaid with animal print, and bearing on the back some of South African photographer Roger Ballen’s profoundly disturbing images (unfortunately unviewable in the 2-D world of catwalk record). A nod to the beast without? Or an angelic ascension? Layers of meaning are fundamental to ritual: what is seen, what is sought. Kawakubo is almost alone in her ability to apply such layers to fashion.