In Tokyo, young men were walking in and out of pools of light at a Comme des Garçons Homme Plus show. “Creation can arise in a dark place where not only the visual but all six senses come into play,” wrote Rei Kawakubo in an emailed commentary. “It is in this world sunk in darkness that we must search and find something new.”
Followers who’ve spent a lifetime analyzing Kawakubo’s work since the ’80s—with barely a word to go on from her—will be excited by her recent turn towards communicativeness. Also, by how stirring her tone is; with fortitude and enquiring minds, she seems to say, we can get through this!
Anyway, distance notwithstanding, a sixth sense wasn’t needed to discern that this was just a great collection from Kawakubo, with a full sequence of the outerwear- with-attitude she does so well for men. She called the collection Darkroom, and added: “Just as photographs reveal their images in the darkroom, so can creation, development, and progress, we believe, also come out of darkness.”
As the swaggering boys moved towards the camera, it was possible to catch the proportions—3/4-length coats, mostly—and then get a closer perusal of the fluidity and texture of the fabrics. Some of these silhouettes had the proportions of oversize jackets; they rippled a bit as the guys walked. Huge varieties were offered: coats made from black vinyl, some made from silk brocade, others in gray and white windowpane check tweed. Impossible to enumerate all of them—Kawakubo was constantly changing fabric, sometimes loading volumes to the front in the form of draped scarves, adding fringes and occasionally throwing in a t-shirt dress and a hoodie ‘dress’ as under-pieces.
Part of the authority Kawakubo has in menswear lies in how effortlessly Homme Plus ranges across age groups and end use. The light on the white tailoring, in particular, illuminated how excellent she is at regular suiting—these are go-to clothes for city professionals, architects, artists, musicians, and hipsters and those who aspire to be such. And for the edgy boys, there was a moment for vertically striped black and white leggings, charmingly and quite sexily accessorized with kitten-heeled pointy, black patent Mary Janes.
On their heads—as you’ll have spotted early on—are headpieces made from women’s black high heeled shoes. They’re the work of the African American sculptor Willie Cole, whose work on reappropriating “common objects to suggest new ideas” Kawakubo saw in an exhibition in the Covid-free days. Cole’s original was a mask made of pumps; Kawakubo asked the artist to make hat versions for the show.
The Willie Cole X CDG collab also extends to prints on many of the clothes. Somehow, they managed all this, separated by continents, during the most difficult year most people have endured. Yet they pulled off a show which, for all its modest, minimal staging, was creatively easily up there with the best of the menswear season.