Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt. PARIS--Normally on the way into a Comme des Garçons show we're given a tip, a clue, a key to understanding the show we're about to see. Sometimes it's just one word, like last season’s ‘white.’ Not this time. And what a surprise it was when the first model climbed onto the runway in complete silence so the sounds of her boots hitting the wood echoed around the high ceiling room. She was wearing an oversized bright red wool coat that flared out at the hips, her hands hidden under extra-long sleeves. She looked like a rocket ready to take off. What followed were variations of this stretched-out flat looking silhouette on jackets, pants, and shorts in vivid reds, aquas, polka dots, florals and camo prints. Shapes were stretched and distorted.
What to make of it all? What was Rei Kawakubo trying to say here? There was something cartoonish about the rigid and robotic way the models walked that removed any connection between them and the clothes. It was almost like they were paper dolls, the two-dimensional clothes hooked onto their shoulders. This show was intentionally devoid of emotion. As more people experience fashion in the age of the internet, clicking through a show to see each look flat and from the front only--there's a total disconnect between the clothes and the emotions that come from experiencing fashion in all its dimensions. A click of one look to the next is like how a child would paste different garments onto a mannequin's body (remember that computer program Cher uses to pick out her outfits in Clueless?). That’s one way of looking at this show. But in the middle of the show, music came on and models came out in long velvet floral columns with matching face masks used in S & M sex play. Were these S& M masks an indication of how vulgar fashion has become? We have all became so blinded by its glossy surface that we can no longer discern real design efforts when we see them. Maybe Ms. Kawakubo was saying that clothes don’t have greater meaning than what we see on screen and on the pages of glossy magazines--but I doubt this was the case. In a sense, she is right in her assessments of the current situation. Fashion has gotten so big and vast, and so making sense of it all is tricky. Flat LED screens and all-access all the time have resulted in much less depth.
Suddenly the music stopped and the overhead lights were lit up to indicate the show was over. But the entire audience remained in their seats clapping loudly for nearly two minutes to incite Ms. Rei Kawakubo to make a brief appearance. In all the years at fashion shows, I have never witnessed a moment like this when all of us insisted that a designer come out, albeit briefly, so we could acknowledge her vision of fashion. In keeping with her tradition, she never appeared from backstage. Yet none of us were disappointed in the rigorous challenges she brings to fashion each season.