Long Nguyen is co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--Down beneath the massive concrete pillars of the ‘Docks’ by the Gare d'Austerlitz at the Cité de la Mode et du Design (it was once a famous late night cruising area, now it's the hot spot for fashion shows, go figure), there were four lights anchoring both ends of the Comme des Garçons runway. Suddenly the lights turned on and a model walked out wearing what appeared to be layers of heavy ivory muslin--the kind used to cut patterns for a first sample of a garment. The layers were folded and sown on top of each other. The model's headdress was made of different brass objects glue together into a small tower and she had long white hair brushing down one side to her knees. That was the opening look of Rei Kawakubo's spring show for Comme des Garçons. What followed was that the amorphous panels of muslin arbitrarily arranged in the first few looks began to take shape--into short sleeves and shorts, satin ruffled sleeves, a pleated skirts, parts of a jacket. Midway through the show, black became the dominant color with splashes of red, purple and navy all mixed in. And for the finale? A series of toile evening dresses with satin sleeves jutting out from the neck and front of the dresses, with parts of wide leg pants hinging on one side, a section of a jacket attached to other, and all of it finished off with a train. Crush was the single word that the house offered by means of an explanation. But that was already obvious in the brass metal cans as hats and the pile of fabrics and bits and pieces of clothes--a sleeve here, a pant leg there–-all melted into a dress that looked as if it had been through battle. It reminded me of the set of Alexander McQueen’s fall 2009 show, where, in front of us was a giant pile of garbage all coagulated into a small mountain sculpture, but a garbage sculpture nevertheless. There are no ‘nice pants' or jackets or coats from this collection but there are ideas to think about as one left the show. The central question of the show, I think, is: What exactly is the function of real fashion design in an age where there are so many clothes and so much information? There lies the risk that all that noise and stuff eclipses an appreciation for design.
The renaissance at Dior and Saint Laurent-–the highlight of this Paris show season-–renewed the discourse on design. And yet all that talk of heritage and modernity--of looking to traditions for a path forward--can be crushed into a garbage ball just as the piles of pant legs, ruffle sleeves and jacket panels can easily be sown into a great cocktail dress. That design should be starting over every season seemed to be the point here.