Paris Day Five: Wadding, Erté, and Cartoon Bugs

Published October 1, 2012

Rei Kawakubo’s voluminous yet flat Comme des Garçons collection last season has seen a slew of designers following in her two-dimensional footsteps, but she has wasted no time basking in the glow. Instead, Kawakubo has lurched into another explosive dimension: crushed and compacted clothes, tied around the body with strings and finished with recycled tin piled atop models’ heads, pots-and-pans style. Like Arman sculptures, Kawakubo’s complex assemblages of clothes upon clothes in muslin and metallic have a monstrous quality, as though she had whirled through her archives and wadded dozens of old pieces together in some desperate, half-crazed urge to come up with something new out of a pile of castoffs. This was no poetic opener for more classic propositions—set to a thumping techno beat, the wadding was non-stop, a complete collection of compacted forms, which had a kind of cathartic effect and by the end of the show seemed almost wearable.

Haider Ackermann’s mix of men’s tailoring and Oriental draping has attracted a big following, and this time he added wide silk pajama pants and breathtakingly filmy slip dresses, some with front panels in lace or held up with a wide leather yoke. The collection’s graphic patterns—notably, chain link—optic-crazy quilt checks, and horizontal stripes for pants brought out an exquisite Erté quality in the mix of east and west, masculine and feminine.

Junya Watanabe took off like a fireball this season in tech fabrics supplied by Puma for an enormous collection in stretch and nylon in vibrant color combinations that looked like cartoon insects. The hypnotic, scalloped patterns inset on scoop neck tops and high-rise pants, curvy dresses and skirts with contrast color insets and intricate parka constructions were both endlessly varied and repetitive, both functional and arty.