Understanding Rei Kawakubo, part 2

Now, without further ado, starting with the Fall 2012 Comme des Garçons collection:

A/W 2012, “2 Dimensions”: 2D, flat clothes (this collection is commonly referred to as the “flat collection”), sometimes with funky prints or masses of flowers or sequins. Kawakubo says, “The rule was to ignore the human body. The human body is three-dimensional, so I worked totally on the flat 2D plane to try to find something new which ignored the body.” Tim Blanks wrote that this collection was satire, explaining: “If the fashion industry was happy with coverage that reduces its most elevated endeavors to two dimensions, then Rei was going to reduce the industry itself to an equally flat proposition.”

A/W 2012, “2 Dimensions”

S/S 2013, “Crush”: overlapping, crushed (like a nuclear explosion of fabric), thick cotton canvas toile (Vogue) and garments with vestigial sleeves and other parts attached to them.

S/S 2013, “Crush”

A/W 2013, “The Infinity of Tailoring”: cascading swatches of fabric and rosettes (Vogue) (first 2 pics), stuffed fabric bolstering arms (4th & 5th pics), traditional english menswear with extra sleeves attached like alien appendages (3rd pic), and prints that looked like an acid trip (last pic).

A/W 2013, “The Infinity of Tailoring”

S/S 2014, “Not Making Clothing”: for this collection, Kawakubo thought to herself: What kind of clothes would children make? 23 crazy looks, but still with signature Kawakubo elements shining through: trapezoidal and cocoon shapes, frilly skirts, rigid lattices, stuffed fabric outlining parts of the garments. Kawakubo wanted to see fashion through the eyes of someone who didn’t know fashion, clothes not being clothes but instead “objects for the body”. Says she, “When you look for something new, your experience may keep you from finding it. Looking of the new means you have to throw something away.”

S/S 2014, “Not Making Clothing”

A/W 2014, “MONSTER”: stuffed black ribbed tubing wrapped and snaking around the body, ribbed sweaters braided together like monster tentacles, cardigans messily knotted together, and a ribbed bulb wrapped around the model’s head as if she was a clove inside a garlic (first pic), featuring oversized sleeves reminiscent of White Drama.

A/W 2014, “MONSTER”

S/S 2015, “Blood and Roses”: the same poppy red adorned with roses and rosettes, increasingly ominous with geometric and slashed silhouettes before culminating at a sinister black hood. Kawakubo explains: “often in history the image of the rose was more connected with blood and wars, in relation to political conflict, religious strife, and power struggles.”

S/S 2015, “Blood and Roses”

A/W 2015, “Ceremony of Separation”: bulbs attached to the body, wrapped in black lace or white (almost looking like full trash bags stuck onto the model), shapes (specifically a barrel and a circle), and gold fabric, Kawakubo’s self-declared third color after black and red.

Vogue best explains the meaning of this collection: “The color and decoration also brought to mind shows of Comme past — particularly “White Drama,” the Spring 2012 offering that conveyed the connotations of the marriage ceremony. Yet here was not the celebration of coming together: The bows were the ties that bind while pulling apart; the wedding dress became a death shroud.”

A/W 2015, “Ceremony of Separation”

S/S 2016, “Blue Witch”: I think this may be my second favorite collection after White Drama, and it’s also this collection where I distinctly noticed how Kawakubo’s collections have been getting smaller (< 25 pieces) and are more sculpture-esque, more and more resembling art. This collection featured dark midnight blue and aqua blue dresses on models with red hair, with tufts of feathers or extravagant thin velvet rectangular flaps, almost like tarantula legs. There are knotted fabric lengths reminiscent of MONSTER. As Kawakubo puts it, “The witch symbolizes a strong woman.”

S/S 2016, “Blue Witch”

A/W 2016, “18th-Century Punk”: flower patterns on abstract armor (the pattern invokes feelings of stereotypical feudal Japan…) Kawakubo states, “I identified very much with punk… The very nature of doing something new and free meant something that was against authority.” This collection only has 17 pieces and each one is breathtakingly unique.

A/W 2016, “18th-Century Punk”

S/S 2017, “Invisible Clothes”: 17 sculpture-like clothes, almost flat-like giant shapes that made audiences wonder if the subject of invisibility was actually the model instead. Kawakubo states: “The idea was not being able to tell where the clothes ended and the body started.”

S/S 2017, “Invisible Clothes”

A/W 2017, “The Future of Silhouette”: 18 pieces consisting of exaggerated dress forms and wonky shapes, some seemingly made out of gray recycled fabric waste, crumpled up brown paper, or shiny silver foil. The silhouette accentuated the shoulders and hips in a bulbous way. This was also the last collection to be featured in the Met exhibit.

A/W 2017, “The Future of Silhouette”

S/S 2018, “Multidimensional Graffiti”: 15 outfits featuring anime prints, huge padded overcoats that apparently sported angel wings in the back (which I couldn’t find any pics of but would love to see! first pic below depicts the overcoats), graffiti prints, Hello Kitty and other plastic toys as accessories, Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s still life surreal veggie & fruit prints, and a mishmash of different fabric types fashioned into a dress (last pic below).

S/S 2018, “Multidimensional Graffiti”

A/W 2018, “Comme des Garçons Camp”: Kawakubo attempts to reclaim the meaning of “camp” through excessive layers of raw fabric sandwiched on top of each other (pic below), kitschy and clashing prints (Betty Boop, polka dots, florals), and poofy tulle and lace on crinolines.

Kawakubo even surprisngly offered an explanation in an email: “Susan Sontag wrote about a creative movement and sensibility, CAMP. I can really identify with this vision. Camp is not something horribly exaggerated, out of the ordinary, unserious or in bad taste. This collection came out of the feeling that, on the contrary, camp is really and truly something deep and new and represents a value we need. For example there are many so called styles such as punk that have lost their original rebel spirit today. I think camp can express something deeper and can give birth to progress.”

As Sontag puts it: The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers. The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious.”

A/W 2018, “Comme des Garçons Camp”

S/S 2019: extremely cropped blazers, undergarments emblazoned with the CDG logo or newspaper or rose prints, long sleeves with chains hanging from them, protrusions of the hips and belly, with suits / coats split open in the front to reveal the seemingly pregnant bellies (first and last pic below). The models wore gray wigs, as if Kawakubo was making a comment on age.

S/S 2019

A/W 2019, “A Gathering of Shadows”: Through this collection, Kawakubo makes a statement on man-made ecological destruction, escalating militarism, and the worsening political conditions under Trump. She explains, “Many small shadows come together to make one powerful thing.” The collection featured black mesh, fuzzy black feather-like fabric, and dystopian black rubber armor, with industrial leather and latex textures bringing up memories of oil spills or other environmental disasters. The color purple made an appearance in the form of Victorian mourning violets, as well as her signature ominous hoods.

A/W 2019, “A Gathering of Shadows”

S/S 2020, “Orlando (Act Two)”; shimmering floral brocades with an opulent color palette and extravagant fabrics inspired by Elizabethan renaissance grandeur, which eventually scales back to Kawakubo’s signature black sculpture-like clothes of flat shapes as the collection carries on. This was Act II to Kawakubo’s take on Orlando by Virginia Woolf (Act I was the homme collection), which tells the tale of a poet who transforms from male to female and lives on for more than 300 years into modern times. The collection also featured thread hanging from embroidered CDG logos like long eyelashes and models wearing what reminded me of almost-deformed Sailor Moon puffs.

S/S 2020, “Orlando (Act Two)”

A/W 2020: otherworldly garments, large bulbous silhouettes, and towering headpieces and veils. This collection is Kawakubo’s most sculpture-esque collection in my opinion, with no seemingly unifying theme except to accomplish the never-been-seen. Yet it pulls from Kawakubo’s signatures, including stuffed padding stuck to fabric, cocoon silhouettes, bulbous lumps attached to the clothes, accentuated hips and shoulders, whimsical curved lattices, and flat 2D garments. After the show, Kawakubo ponders in an email: “Is it impossible to make something completely and utterly new, since we are all living in this world?”

A/W 2020

Credits / Sources

Source for pictures: Vogue Runway, Dazed Digital, http://www.littlemagonline.com/tag/rei-kawakubo/, http://stylecurated.blogspot.com/2017/05/rei-kawakubo-comme-des-garcons-art-of.html

From the book Rei Kawakubo: Comme Des Garçons : Art of the In-between by Andrew Bolton, below is a list of CDG collections from 1981 onwards and the accompanying names that Kawakubo has given them.

1. Pirates, A/W 1981–82

2. Indigo Dye and Twist, S/S 1982

3. Holes, A/W 1982–83

4. Patchworks and X, S/S 1983

5. Gloves, Skirts, Quilted Big Coats, A/W 1983–84

6. Round Rubber, S/S 1984

7. Twist, Silk + Jersey, Knits (Patchworks), A/W 1984–85

8. Mud-Dyed, S/S 1985

9. Dots, Polyester Pleats, A/W 1985–86

10. Bias Cutting, S/S 1986

11. Bonding, A/W 1986–87

12. Young Chic, No Shoulder, S/S 1987

13. White Shirt + Pants, Khaki, Lili Marleen, A/W 1987–88

14. Frontless, Lamé, Sequins, S/S 1988

15. Red Is Black, A/W 1988–89

16. Movement, S/S 1989

17. Liberation from Tailoring (Next New One), A/W 1989–90

18. Refresh the Spirits, S/S 1990

19. Modern Sweetness, A/W 1990–91

20. Ink Dye, Stained Glass, S/S 1991

21. Chic Punk, A/W 1991–92

22. Unfinished, S/S 1992

23. Lilith, A/W 1992–93

24. Ultrasimple, S/S 1993

25. Synergy, A/W 1993–94

26. Eccentric, S/S 1994

27. Metamorphosis, A/W 1994–95

28. Transcending Gender, S/S 1995

29. Sweeter Than Sweet, A/W 1995–96

30. Kaleidoscope, S/S 1996

31. Flowering Clothes, A/W 1996–97

32. Body Meets Dress — Dress Meets Body, S/S 1997

33. Adult Punk, A/W 1997–98

34. Clustering Beauty, S/S 1998

35. Fusion, A/W 1998–99

36. New Essential, S/S 1999

37. Transformed Glamour, A/W 1999–2000

38. Coercion, S/S 2000

39. Hard and Forceful (Energy), A/W 2000–2001

40. Optical Shock (Volume), S/S 2001

41. Beyond Taboo, A/W 2001–2

42. Ethnic Couture (White), S/S 2002

43. Free Knitting (Freedom of Knits), A/W 2002–3

44. Extreme Embellishment (Adornment), S/S 2003

45. Square, A/W 2003–4

46. Abstract Excellence, S/S 2004

47. Dark Romance, Witch, A/W 2004–5

48. Ballerina Motorbike, S/S 2005

49. Broken Bride, A/W 2005–6

50. Lost Empire, S/S 2006

51. Persona, A/W 2006–7 C

52. Cubisme, S/S 2007

53. Curiosity, A/W 2007–8

54. Cacophony, S/S 2008

55. Bad Taste, A/W 2008–9

56. Tomorrow’s Black, S/S 2009

57. Wonderland, A/W 2009–10

58. Adult Delinquent, S/S 2010

59. Inside Decoration, A/W 2010–11

60. No Theme (Multiple Personalities, Psychological Fear), S/S 2011

61. Hybrid, A/W 2011–12

62. White Drama, S/S 2012

63. 2 Dimensions, A/W 2012–13

64. Crush, S/S 2013

65. The Infinity of Tailoring, A/W 2013–14

66. Not Making Clothing, S/S 2014

67. MONSTER, A/W 2014–15

68. Blood and Roses, S/S 2015

69. Ceremony of Separation, A/W 2015–16

70. Blue Witch, S/S 2016

71. 18th-Century Punk, A/W 2016–17

72. Invisible Clothes, S/S 2017

73. The Future of Silhouette, A/W 2017

74. Multidimensional Graffiti, S/S 2018

75. Comme des Garçons Camp, A/W 2018

76. [·], S/S 2019

77. A Gathering of Shadows, A/W 2019

78. Orlando (Act Two), S/S 2020

79. [·], A/W 2020

Lastly, a good read: https://032c.com/abc-of-cdg

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