Winning the award for most lo-fi invitation of the season, with what looked like a badly transmitted fax on slippery thermal paper, Rei Kawakubo, founder and head of Comme des Garçons was firing shots. In an unusually vocal collection, loaded with phrases such as ‘The King is Naked Shout Out Aloud’, ‘It’s My Fashion,’ and ‘Pride Before the Fall’ she utilized the moral of Hans Christian Andersen’s cautionary tale The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The all-too familiar story tells of the king employing two weavers to create his new wardrobe, only to be proffered clothes that are invisible to those who are not worthy. Of course the king is simply naked, and the courtesans are too afraid to point it out, until a young boy declares, ‘But he isn’t wearing anything at all.’ Collectively we are the courtesans, unable to declare anything out loud, so Kawakubo did it for us. She seemed to be chastising the state of contemporary fashion, in particular the designers who pass today with undeserving praise heaped upon them.
The clothes were cleverly constructed, made mostly from see-through plastics, sometimes layered on garments, but most sensationally as whole outfits, revealing the models in cotton boxers. There was an intriguing print section, featuring collaborative imagery from the Italian decorative-arts company Fornasetti, featuring their familiar multi-printed faces staring back at us. We were watching ourselves, and in turn being watched? Perhaps. But I think she was warning the pretenders to her throne that she’s got her eye on them and she still reigns supreme.
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