PARIS, France — Light needs dark. Joy needs sadness. Fashion needs Comme des Garcons. Opposites validate themselves by co-existence.
And so Rei Kawakubo’s new men’s collection was an elegant swan dive into the abyss. Beauty in morbidity. The enduring appeal of such an idea has sparked dissonant youth, Romantic poets, Goth musicians. Their tortured souls were woven into the fabric of the Comme presentation. There was dark dandy glamour in sequined or brocaded tailcoats, and an elongated tunic crusted with paillettes. A long black jacket, studded with small holes, was reminiscent of Rei’s “new lace” from her radical descent on Paris in the early 80s.
In those years, London’s black-lipsticked, rat-haired, fish-netted and spider-webbed underground was spinning obliviously around a dark Soho basement called the Batcave to the music of Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend. Their hit was “Ignore the Machine”. Post-punk, post-politics, post-pleasure. Thatcher ruled, days were dark.
History repeats. Kawakubo picked up on that mood with her collection. Venue? Dark basement. Soundtrack? A pounding Batcave-ish howl from Australian “death-poppers” VOWWS. Hair and makeup? Black lipstick, shaved scalps or long stringy crypt-keeper hair. Fishnets abounded. Torsos were draped with a macabre arrangement of clip-like things that surely had no good purpose.
It was prescient. The way forward is embrace or rejection. Kawakubo’s path was clear. She is a consummate fashion designer. Buried in the murk were artfully doubled jackets, skillful new proportions, intriguing decorative elements. But is creativity enough in the darkness? Maybe not. The last model raised a clenched fist at the photographers. Fury or frustration?