“Is it impossible to make something completely and utterly new, since we are all living in this world?”, Rei Kawakubo asked rhetorically in the press notes of her autumn-winter 2020 Comme Des Garçons collection. Looking at some “big” designers for a couple of seasons, this question is an actual punch with a fist. At this stage in her legendary career, what’s still driving Kawakubo is the tantalizing goal of being able to make work that relates to nothing else; that triggers no associations; is devoid of storytelling and free of history, politics, or satire; and is incapable of being interpreted as belonging to any culture or subconscious brew of any of the above. Among the 20 looks she sent out – bubbles, ledged pieces apparently made for furniture, towering headpieces – it felt like she was aiming to design for some post-world state. There appeared to be echoes of Comme Des Garçons collections from the past – the Flat collection; the ones rotated around the idea of weddings and funerals; fragmented reminders of the Lumps and Bumps presentation. Kawakubo admitted it was true – she really let herself remix some of her past works. “Continuing my work as a perpetual futurist, I worked from within the CDG world.” But when you’re having such a well-formed, complex and distinct vocabulary – Miuccia Prada as well comes up to my mind as one of those designers – then there’s no wonder you want to recycle some of those concepts from time to time.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.