Saturday, 10 March 2018

comme des garçons autumn/winter 2018

Fashion has a complicated relationship with camp; go too far and it risks looking tacky and overindulgent. Mainstream camp is awash with the pastel heritage of John Waters and the garish vibrance of 2018 drag culture. If any designer is going to face it head-on and still come out with a stellar collection, then it is Rei Kawakubo. Comme des Garçons’ avant-garde signature style lends her some distance from the camp we are most attuned to.

Camp refuses to take itself seriously, which is why it is surprising that Kawakubo describes it as “really and truly something deep and new that represents a value we need.” Comme des Garçons stands out as a breath of fresh air among this season’s collections. Recently, designers have felt under pressure to politicise fashion, but Kawakubo offers an alternative, reminding us that fashion is fun. However, camp is also defiant because, much like fashion itself, it challenges perceptions of what art can and should be. Perhaps Kawakubo is right, and camp should be the next style movement. It is inclusive, fun and rebellious and it would make a change from the heavy-handed politics of slogan t-shirts and regurgitated punk aesthetics.

This collection feels nostalgic. Ruffles and tulle induce memories of prom, dressing-up boxes and borrowing our mother’s clothes, with copious clumsy layering and too many clashing colours. It’s humorous in abundance. After all, who would expect to see Betty Boop at a Comme des Garçons show?

This isn’t street style. Kawakubo has created a bold and unflinchingly camp collection for the stage and that is the charm of Comme des Garçons. It exists within the theatrical with Kawakubo subverting our expectations of fashion and challenging our perceptions of camp. Who else could find defiance in kitsch?

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