To the sounds of techno god Jeff Mills’ recent release Aquarius, Comme des Garçons opened abruptly as several boys hit the runway at the same time, meandering into the space continuously in movement, walking in groups in circular motions. Their outfits were sliced and diced, layered and overlapped. It was deconstruction in technicolor — or, given the soundtrack, technocolor.
It was a consummately anti-black outing, after last season’s theme of Orlando. The opera costumes at The Vienna State Opera in December 2019 were the third and final part of that trilogy that took in both the last men’s and women’s collections. The opera tells the story of Orlando, who changes gender while aging only 36 years in a period of 300 years. If last season was nonbinary and ungendered, with more dresses than trousers and a rip-it-up-and-start-again approach to the rules of menswear, this season was also about breaking rules and taboos.
Rei Kawakubo is at her most comfortable taking herself out of her comfort zone, so the multi-colored, multi-layered outfits should have come as no surprise, but they were so brash and clashing that they caught us off guard. Groups of models walking in clans, one entering while one exited, made the show pass at a blistering speed. The models all wore braided wig hairstyles, which could be seen as another test of taste and taboo. It is certainly a faux pas for many, raising the flag of re-appropriation, which numerous social media stars have fallen afoul of. But here the wigs were so exaggerated, their lace fronts fell midway down the foreheads of many, so they could be seen as props. Some even wore necklaces with candy-colored wigs hanging off of them like the scalps of teenagers.
The playfulness in the garments’ use of graphic prints and the lack of respect for the rules of tailoring or form were pure punk. Tees were cut out to become harnesses, and jackets were cut so high on the hip they resembled corsets. Sometimes, it was hard to tell if the jackets were worn inside out, but it didn’t matter — the handling was executed to perfection. When the last tribe marched together off the runway, wearing fabric emblazoned with the words ‘Comme des Garcons’, a round of applause erupted backstage. The music stopped and the lights abruptly went out — Rei’s way.