Photo: Jeff Bark
Love, lust, life and death with Comme des Garçons
Taken from the Spring 2015 issue of Dazed:
In a season defined by an obsession with placid beauty, Rei Kawakubo – one of fashion’s most defiant and cryptic figures – hit us with a collection that raged violently against the surface level. Inside a derelict warehouse in Paris, she sent out an aggressive procession of explosive silhouettes rendered in an overwhelming, all-red colour palette. Red has always been a powerful signifier, but in the hands of the Comme des Garçons figurehead, its conflicting associations with rage, suffering, love, lust, life and death all came into emotional consciousness.
Kawakubo’s signature is to create clothes that demand an extreme reaction, but this season’s show felt powerfully unnerving, set to a jarring soundtrack curated by Frédéric Sanchez featuring drone metal bands such as Earth and Sunn O))). “With Comme des Garçons it’s different because Rei doesn’t tell you about a theme,” says Sanchez. “What was interesting – and something I hadn’t experienced in a long time – was that she really wanted me to look at the clothes very intensely beforehand. The moment I saw the collection, violent and emotional images came into my head. I thought of Derek Jarman movies, like The Last of England, and the Countess Elizabeth Báthory (the infamous female serial killer known for bathing in her victims’ blood). It was violent and passionate, but without the feeling of horror. The final idea was to do something subtle. Something that felt like no music, but which filled the space.”
Backstage, the notoriously elusive designer gave the words ‘roses’ and ‘blood’ as her explanation for the show. It was an interesting pairing: two disparate ideas that came together in this most conflicted of collections. “There was something almost operatic and theatrical because of the red,” says Sanchez. “It gave a feeling of unreality, while also expressing something about the violent world we live in at the moment. It’s not real, but it is – that’s what makes it so special.” For Kawakubo, clothes alone have never told the whole story. What she achieved this season was to trigger an emotional response that stayed with us, reverberating far beyond the catwalk. Fashion could do with more of that.