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Comme des Garçons Womenswear S/S12

An all-white show from Rei Kawakubo stuns with regal layered robes and floral references

TextSusie LauPhotographySusie Lau

It would be a naive romantic vision to purely look at Rei Kawakubo's brides at her S/S 12 show as purely celebratory and joyous figures.  Given that the colour white is symbolic of so many rites of passage in life - birth, marriage and death - when Kawakubo presents a white-out collection, every gesture, physical structure and aesthetic decoration has context.  The cloud-like headpieces topping every head and sometimes obscuring the girl's face can't be anything but warped veils, trapping and cocooning the girls.  The hands clasped in front as though they were in prayer or contemplative zen.  The cage structures that encased these brides - a comment on woman's self-inflicted trap or in some cases, an arranged one perhaps? 

The sinister papal hoods that suggested the ceremonious binding of religion to the colour white.  A flood of white floral rosettes muffling the girls into a mummified state - a visual metaphor for women having conventional ideals of femininity imposed on them or misogynist society bending them to their will?  There's all of that to dissect and more if you wish to go deeper.  Ultimately though, all of that meaning and analysis never hides the fact that Rei Kawakubo's collection was utterly beautiful.  There's no getting away from the stunning lace, the complex rosettes, the well crafted crinolines and intricate embroidery.  Add that height of craftsmanship to the combined feeling of joy and sadness and you couldn't help but sigh at how powerful fashion could be when there were this many layers to delve into.