Rei Kawakubo is fearless. Experimentalism is her signature, and the results have never disappointed, but her Spring Summer 2020 collection is only Act 2 of a 3 part story for Comme Des Garçons. A while back, Olga Neuwirth was composing for her latest work, ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf, for the Vienna State Opera – the first woman ever to compose for this particular institution. Given that ‘Orlando’ is a novel of gender identity and change, it would make for an interesting project for any designer. But Neuwirth had only one name in particular in mind: Kawakubo.
Of course, it wasn’t enough to have the cast bedecked in Comme Des Garçons, and thereby declare the project complete, Kawakubo instead used this as an opportunity to experiment and push the boundaries firstly with the Homme collection (Act 1), the Spring Summer Women’s collection where we find ourselves looking presently (Act 2), and finally, the Vienna State Opera, on stage, in their costumes, singing arias in head to toe CDG when the Opera opened in December 2019 (Act 3).
The story of ‘Orlando’ sees the protagonist travel through time, changing from an Elizabethan boy to a woman in a matter of centuries. Comme Des Garçons latest collection sees Kawakubo make stop-offs along the way of 18th and 19th century style, playing with colours and textures, feminine touches of pouffed sleeves and more masculine hints of armoured bodies. Seasoned with chaotic opulence, the collection moves through the majestic and renaissance (right down to the hair-styles adopted for the looks) to the calm and inviting simplicity of monochrome colours and soft silhouettes. It’s a deliberate and considered mix of male and female, not androgyny, but a celebration of the best of both, or perhaps simply the halfway point, the merging of boy meets woman on the way to the completion of the third act. Either way, the results are immaculate.