Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–It has been a very long time since I sat through an entire fashion show and afterwards I was still trying to figure out what the designer was really up to. That happened late on Saturday afternoon at the Comme des Garçons show, which was a much different show than the stunning collection presented by Junya Watanabe for his eponymous line earlier in the day.
“White drama” was the theme to this puzzling but absolutely beautiful and meditative show from Comme des Garçons where a model wearing a white duchess satin knee length dress with a puff skirt and a bow that seemed to tie her hands together (not to mention the large headdress) opened the procession. This led to an all-white collection that displayed not only incredible workmanship in tailoring and embroidery with sumptuous coats and short dresses, but a show that stirred varied emotional reactions from the audience.
Each outfit was so distinct from the previous one that the show felt like a slow evolution where a cut-out caged skirt worn with a lace long sleeve t-shirt morphed into a full flared cage coat. There were looks that seemed purposely like heavy stage costumes–like the hooded long dress with an opening for the model’s face. But then came two versions of slim fitted single-breasted jackets worn with a sheer lace dress and shorts respectively, each with molded sculpted hats created by 3 different artists: Gary Card, Kohei Nawa and Christian Astuguevieille (none of whom has ever made hat before).
What is one to make of all this? If staging the show at the Palais de la Femme is any indication, one would tend to think that the designer is lecturing about the conditions of women through a narrative of clothes done in calculated exaggerations. It may be a reflection of the conditions of women around the world played out in duchess satin outfits–from the bound hands of a bride in the opening to the fully covered heads that ended the show when the lights were suddenly turned off, leaving the audience bewildered in the darkened hall.
It could also have another meaning altogether. In Asia, white is the color for funerals and for mourning the dead. Perhaps in showing all these types of clothes that have constrained and bound women throughout history, the designer seemed to say that we have now arrived at a moment when we can mourn some of the loss of these constraints. That’s the sense I got from seeing this “white drama” played out. The show was also the antithesis of the fast fashion that’s omnipresent now. Here was meaning and emotion attached to fashion rather than just another minor and fleeting trend to be tweeted and retweeted. A Tweet from this show would be hollow without the prerequisite understanding and would be meaningless.
But never for a moment think that Comme de Garçons isn’t about business. The majority of these garments will be available in CDG’s stores in February since there isn’t a parallel commercial collection attached to the show pieces. The few difficult pieces like the floral hooded long dress with slit pockets may find room at the recently opened Trading Museum Comme des Garçons stores that sell limited editions, one of a kind garments, fragrances and accessories amidst displays of art collaborations. The Paris Trading Museum store opened the evening before the show with a video work by Katerina Jebb entitled “Simulacrums & Hyperbole.” A bit of hyperbole is sometimes necessary to get one’s point across.
**All photos via Imaxtree