“Anything war can do, peace can do better” was the graffiti message Rei Kawakubo etched into one of the final looks of her powerful menswear protest collection. This Comme des Garcons show made its anti war point in one of the most effective ways possible, subtly and subliminally. So that even as the audience watched the collection unfold they were not fully aware of what they were experiencing and assimilating until it was already absorbed into their collective psyche.
No, the first thing they noticed were the boots. The Mexican footwear, with toes that extended-out and curved-up and around, created an exaggerated elf like shape. The shoes caused the models to walk in a slightly amplified way- a nod to the lockstep march of army men on parade perhaps?
Then there were the outfits themselves, all of them crafted out of staple military styles, from enlisted men to officers uniforms, that the designer crafted primarily out of classic menswear suiting. She sliced back the power of both of these ironic masculine garments by inserting into the backs or side panels of jackets animal print fabrics. The designer also chopped off pants into childlike shorts with Velcro suspenders (conceivably a reference to children soldiers) and she wrapped a large portion of the collection in netting that brought to mind the ones used by the military to hide their gear. On the runway these overlays of fabric conveyed the sense that the models were trapped in their clothing, unable to escape the tangled web of war.
As cerebral as all this sounds the collection itself was one of Kawakubo most wearable. It is easy to imagine an army of the brand’s devoted fans lining up to enlist in this season’s offerings. But so strong was this show that Kawakubo might find herself with quite a few new Comme des Garcons recruits.