Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
When the lights suddenly turned on, signaling the end of the ingenious and puzzling Comme Des Garçons show late Saturday afternoon, the crowd sat and clapped to demand that Rei Kawakubo come out from backstage. It was a repeat of the ovation given at the end of her Fall 2012 flat clothes collection. Then and now, there were no signs of the designer, who would rather the collection speak for itself.
With just 23 outfits—each assigned its own music, which ranged from classical concerto to rapid drum beats—Kawakubo pushed the boundaries of what can be clothes to extreme limits.
From the first look, a see-through nylon dress with velvet trim—worn with black tights and a bondage corset underneath—to the last, a black dress that was literally a giant puff of black nylon, the clothes broke the barrier of what is supposed to be a ready-to-wear collection. We think too much of fashion as glamor. But what about the idea that fashion is a prison, encasing the person within its artificial aesthetics and boundaries? The rigid structures of each look here called into question how fashion can surely trap the individual within his or her own confines. While the bright pink puffy dress by itself is surely charming, it has more to say when worn under a 3-D cage made of off-white crinoline. The rigid structure engulfed the dress and the model, conveying a feeling of entrapment by way of fashion.
The modern luxury model—which most fashion houses currently follow—offers little room to maneuver. Conversely, at this show, there was a real sense of creative freedom. The audience wasn’t wrong to demand that the designer appear to take a bow, but that would have played too much into the fashion system that this collection vehemently resisted. Absence, at times, is more meaningful.