As Art, Comme Des Garcons Bubbles

Photo by Pierre Antoine

With over a decade’s experience in fashion exhibitions—presiding over retrospectives of such venerable fashion icons as Yohji Yamamoto, Madame Grès, and Sonia Rykiel—French curator and writer Olivier Saillard has sanctioned Rei Kawakubo’s entire Summer 2012 Comme des Garçons collection for an exhibition at Musee Galliera in Paris. The provocative all-white oeuvre (its wearable version currently in stores worldwide) is at the Cité de la Mode et du Design, the Galliera’s temporary location until its renovations are complete next year.

Showing a single, current collection in exhibition format is testament to the powerful nature of Kawakubo’s vision. “Faced with certain shows, one can appreciate their dimension and measure their influence to come. We make a point to show in full this singularity which makes these presentations so rich, ” said Saillard. The collection, called White Drama, spoke volumes about socio-political issues and existential concepts. Using demi-couture techniques including padded crinolines, delicate knitted and silk lace, the imposing silhouettes trace a feminine evolution from birth and marriage to death through exaggerated form and decoration. Sleeves tied into a frivolous bow and straitjacket-style column dresses arouse metaphors of commitment and obligation, and burqa-like hoods and veils are reminiscent of a death shroud. Wide, billowing birdcage skirts and heavily-ruffled dresses seem bridal, whereas slimline smocks and pinafores echoed christening gowns.  

For the Galliera exhibition, the 33 Comme des Garçons looks are mounted in sterile inflatable bubbles, to create further dichotomy of social relevance and absurdity—they are so close, yet completely untouchable. Odd pops of black are provided by hand-painted graffiti and rubber bonnets. Says Saillaird, “The collection is a rallying point between archaism and a vision of the future, a stand for the imaginary, where consideration of the garment, the noblest of all, is the subject.”

“Comme des Garçons White Drama” runs through Oct. 7.