“For me, the dark beauty of the black rose symbolizes courage, resistance, and freedom”, Rei Kawakubo stated regarding her Comme des Garçons autumn-winter 2022 show presented a few days ago in Tokyo. The black rose in Irish culture is a symbol of resistance against British rule. It might be a bit hard to discern it in the Comme lineup – it only comes in, patterned on a sort of Victoriana brocade at the 12th of the 16 exits. It’s certain that anti-British imperialism in Ireland is what Kawakubo meant, though, because the haunting music – “a beautiful resistance song from Ireland, Roisin Dubh, the little black rose,” was recorded for the show by the Northern Irish slow flautist Ciaran Carlin. Possibly that’s the most political reference Kawkubo’s made in her work – it has no equivalence to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, except for the common factor of dangerously contested borders. But anyway: how to put words to her clothes? Was a sense of dark history, something primal, or even medieval going on? It seemed so to begin with anyway, what with Kawkubo’s use of thick, wadded, speckled-gray felt carpet underlay (or something similar) and headpieces created by Gary Card bulging with assortments of rough, rolled up fabrics. Other hand-crocheted floppy woollen hats had the air of bonnets, country-cottage style. Comme des Garçons hasn’t been showing outside Tokyo for two years, and Paris Fashion Week really misses its presence. Hopefully, Kawakubo (as well as Junya Watanabe and Noir Kei Ninomiya) returns to the French runway next season.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.