Monochrome Serenity. Comme Des Garçons AW21

In the Comme des Garçons autumn-winter 2021 fashion show images coming straight from Tokyo, Rei Kawakubo‘s models looked as if they were walking clouds. “I needed to take one breath on the monochrome“, the designer summed up in her always-enigmatic manner. Monochrome is Kawakubo’s original signature. In the early 1980s, right at the start of her showing in Paris, Rei’s uncompromising use of black was deemed “shocking” and “conceptual” – especially in contrast to all the bold colours used by Montana or Saint Laurent at the time. Here, the designer seems to push it to extremes, creating wearable, layered-up sculptures which were kept in a rigorous black-and-white palette. With the addition of the rakish stovepipe hats made in collaboration with Ibrahim Kamara, the billowy dresses and voluminous coats played with romantic, Victorian styles. Comme des Garçons’ “monochrome serenity” definitely comes from an escapist place, breaking away from the global, lockdown routine. The longer you look at those pieces, the more beautiful things are revealed.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Motional. Beautiful People SS21

Hidenori Kumakiri creates shape-shifting garments at his Tokyo-slash-Paris-based label, Beautiful People. The former Comme des Garçons pattern-cutter makes classic clothes bordering with fantastical volumes, a mix of femininity and 1950s couture sensibility combined with the Japanese avant-garde. The brand presented the spring summer 2021 Side-C Vol.5 Motional collection, which explores today’s world, where we are stuck in our homes, and overwhelmed by emotions, with a striking film directed by Takahiro Igarashi. The collection sends message of optimism and rebirth, with the bustle-like shapes, and big and flowing volumes. “Side C, the transformative look at classics that focuses on the layers and the in-betweens of clothing, finds another dimension: a flowing, dynamic one. By creating an interconnecting system of pockets inside the garments, and filling them with small beads, movable silhouettes are created. The beads flow as the body moves, sits or stands, allowing for endless reconfigurations. A skirt turns into a couch, a dress into an armchair, only to revert back to what it was,” the press note says. The result is a look at the classics and the layers in between the clothing – a collection filled with an interconnecting system of pockets inside each look which allows them to be filled with small beads. With each movement, the shape and volume of each look changes into an endless array of silhouettes. And when topped off with pillow-like hats, there’s another nod to home and the familiar elements of our humble abode. Incredible.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Think Pink. Noir Kei Ninomiya SS21

Extraordinary – that’s how one might describe Noir Kei Ninomiya’s garments. Most of them are sew-free constructions – he prefers rivets, snaps, or grommets – and for spring-summer 2021, we’ve got a series of handmade hyper-extravagant dresses, all of which would be perfect for a Björk album cover or a Nick Knight shoot. While Ninomiya usually stays close to his favourite palette of black, here we’ve got a deslightful splash of bubble-gum pink. Is this a sign of hope for a troubled world? The designer leaves it to your interpretation. Grandiosely modern silhouettes were delineated in materials that included wire, pearls, PVC, chain, a symphony of polyester fabrications, ribbon, satin, cotton, wool, three types of leather, and taffeta, with which the amazing aura-haze of the last look was constructed. Note the four varieties of this-season’s collaboration with the Prada-owned English shoemaker Church’s. These florally studded footwear options are the most straightforward way, along with his biker jackets, to buy into the Ninomiya aesthetic. Love!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Disco Noir. Junya Watanabe SS21

Disco is having a rebirth in music – just think of Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy or Dua Lipa’s latest records. During lockdown, we’ve all dreamed of a care-free party, so no wonder why some designers chose this escapist, joyful theme for the spring-summer 2021 collections.  Discussing his latest outing, Junya Watanabe’s press notes said, “It is a collection that reproduces the costumes worn by the stars in my memories. My memories are monochrome, and I created a photo session with four fictional stars.” The black and white images feature an assortment of apparently black or white looks, plus one or two more in silver. Nearly all of them are sparkling with sequins dresses that get the party started. The 1960s A-line gowns that close the look book, but also the trenchcoats that are integral to Watanabe’s oeuvre, have a disco noir feeling about them. Last season Watanabe paid punkish tribute to Debbie Harry. Though the Spangles may owe a debt to the Supremes, these muses are more abstract. In its spotlighting of sequins, the collection feels of a piece with earlier Watanabe shows that had singular focal points of their own, like army fatigues and puffers. His new season clothes have an easy-to-wear aspect that many have keyed into in this COVID year. I’s a whole lot of caftan-like shapes and leggings, essentially and a stripped-down outing by house standards. The most complex shapes were the coats whose hems looped up, creating generous volumes. But in tricking everything out in spangles Watanabe turned the concept of #WFH-wear on its head. Comfort, he gets. Hibernation? Not so much. Sequins are associated with happier times. If and when the world opens up, Watanabe’s women will be ready to loose themselves on the dancefloor.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dissonance. Comme Des Garçons SS21

Paris Fashion Week felt incomplete without the Japanese avant-garde. From Tokyo, where all the Comme des Garçons family of designers have been showing, an email suggested that Rei Kawakubo has been striving to arrive at a creative resolution for designing in the midst of the existential plight that we’re all suffering. Dissonance was her theme: “The human brain always looks for harmony and logic. When logic is denied, when there is dissonance a powerful moment is created which leads you to feel an inner turmoil and tension that can lead to finding positive change and progress.” Any note of hope is gratefully received in these times of chaos. Discerned through the red light of her set – surely a signifier of the hellish state of the world, which at the same time made it hard to look at the garments in detail – her prescription for survival seemed threaded through with a playful, ironic sense of humor. Voluminous shapes, crinolines, bubbles, cloaks, and trapezoid coats came covered in plastic film. Then, what was Kawakubo up to, playing with Mickey Mouse and the Japanese Bearbrick teddy bear toy? Cutely reassuring representations of childhood innocence to cling to in our times of trouble, perhaps. The designer even messed around with the CdG heart logo, designed by Filip Pagowski back in the 1980s. The thing about Kawakubo is that her work brilliantly captures so many dissonant ideas at the same time. A phrase in her notes said she was interested in disrupting “the spirit of couture” with “illogical combinations and juxtapositions.” You sense she likes both the romance and glitter of couture and being punk with it, though – and this time, it almost felt like she’d had fun with it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.