Rei Kawakubo, the 73-year-old founder of Comme des Garçons, called her latest collection “18th-century punk,” but it was really about sex. Kawakubo’s show was positively the most erotic thing going in Paris, at least on the runways. Other designers yap about amour, and slip you another boyfriend jacket; Kawakubo gives you tongues and giant orifices lined in fuzz. And not rendered in some nice Frenchy fabric or Japanese high-tech wonder but, rather, in silk prints and jacquards reproduced in Lyon at Kawakubo’s request from the archives of that city’s famous mills.
“And fucking expensive,” Adrian Joffe, who is Kawakubo’s husband and business partner, said in a stage whisper backstage as a throng of admirers gathered around the designer. A few people, catching the drift of Joffe’s meaning, laughed. Lyon was, in a sense, the heart and soul of French couture, and expressions of this kind come at a price. Most of the fabrics featured lush, full-blown roses in deep pinks and reds, and some of the 17 garments in the show consisted of four or five different patterns, in pink as well as imperial blue and gold-flecked cream. Flowers are also a central motif of Dior, and Christian Dior looked to the 18th century for inspiration, as did two of his successors, John Galliano and Raf Simons. But Kawakubo’s show didn’t seem a bid for the currently vacant top post at Dior so much as a provocation. She doesn’t need the Dior job, but perhaps high fashion needs more reckless creativity.
After all, the subject of decadence is ripe for the picking — with billionaires flaunting their wealth and, at another extreme, social media encouraging a new type of libertine. What better way into that expression than through the 18th century?
Nothing about Kawakubo’s designs is nostalgic or literal. It never is, although you’d have to be a dolt not to grasp that the dense cascade of pink flaps running from the shoulder of a garment down to the right ankle is an allusion to licking tongues. I lost count of the number of round entry points on the garments. Additionally, there were bondage straps, suggestions of corsets, and pieces of fabric cut in strips and assembled to evoke armor. The models, wearing slightly unspooled black periwigs, walked on a bare stage to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” from The Nutcracker. But, for me, the most extraordinary pieces were those cut relatively close to the body and composed of elements of armor and, say, a corset or waistcoat, all in different silk patterns, and arranged in a kind of stack — or a monument to French extravagance that a punk queen had destroyed and reassembled in her fashion.
Earlier yesterday, Junya Watanabe sent out a lovely collection of garments made from clusters of geometric cutouts in black or neon-bright industrial neoprene. Watanabe has done a couple of shows in which he has transformed circles, hexagons, and other geometric structures in whole garments — loopy shrugs and cagelike tunics. But this collection had the added grace note of ballet: The models wore black leotards and leggings under their 3-D frills, as well as ballet flats; and everything maintained a graceful line, thanks in part to some pretty long skirts.
Most Viewed Stories
This Conspiracy Theory Will Change How You Feel About the Bachelor Villain
The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the Women’s March
Here’s the Official List of Speakers for the Women’s March on Washington
15 Protest Sign Ideas for the Women’s March on Washington
Sexual Assault in the Amazon
The Sheer Perfection of Donald Trump’s Golden Shower
Things to Keep You Warm and Dry at a Protest
Your Guide to Peeing During the Women’s March on Washington
TMZ Reports Trump Will Actually Have Really Cool Inauguration Performers
Your Guide to NYC Inauguration Weekend Protests
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.