From The Issue: Violent Passion Surrogate, Our Comme Des Garçons Plus Profile Story
In Germaine Greer’s book The Boy, the feminist author and writer examines the beauty of boys through art. She makes fascinating parallels between the appreciation of the young male and the aesthetic pursuit of him by great painters and sculptors.
She notes, too, that there was a time in the 18th century when men enjoyed assuming a boy-like alter ego, more carefree than a man but not as powerful. It allowed him a new joy and was impermanent and playful; it was him but also somebody else and a kind of interior him.
Men wore shiny heels and satins and their walk was affected and flouncy. It all stands in stark contrast to now, where young men and boys are expected to wear grey, navy and bottle green as part of a school uniform. They are taught how to behave like a boy and then all check each other to be sure they are doing the same.
Being masculine now is a relatively modern projection: what you see is not what really is.
Modern masculinity is a cloak and, on the inside, is the more carefree Greer boy. He’s emotional and joyous yet suppressed. “Female values” such as kindness and consideration and those of nurturing and a high emotional intelligence are considered female – they have a sex. No value has a sex. Men carry all the above but are encouraged to neither engage nor register them.
If you’ve ever seen a loving father play with his children and speak in a soft voice and nurse them when they fall, it is the most beautiful thing you could ever witness. Men otherwise self-cloak these sensibilities, especially when in the company of other men.
In a brief explanation of her work for the Homme Plus spring collection – What’s on the Inside Matters – the designer Rei Kawakubo told us, “What’s important in fashion is what’s deep inside. The collection expresses the complexity of what is inside all of us.”
These few words tell us a lot.
The insides of the jackets (here, worn inside out just as in the presentation) are coloured and sewn with gems, seed pearls and very bright cottons; one had a Nepalese tiger print like a tourist carpet. Some of the lining fabrics were stitched like tapestries with naive leaves and flowers. There were pinstripes, pink leopard and
Lurex and long floral jacquard tunics. Another jacket had corset lacing running up the back. It spoke of a refracted femininity and something pretty and perhaps saucy and of a very secret dressing-up box in some man’s “other wardrobe”.
The lighting rig at the presentation
came to life with huge coloured spotlights like those you get at a regional wedding. The square, raised catwalk, surrounded by chairs occupied by the press, was also a dance floor. The lights began to move and the music – a disco-y, rave-y stitch-up – began and the models walked on and danced around a bit. They had glitter hair!
I had to stop for a while and think about why – was there even a why? – Kawakubo wanted a disco to show the clothes against and why she told the models to dance.
And then it hit me: on a dance floor, when the music is right and with these very same coloured lights, some kind of juju occurs, a disco enchantment that draws men up from their chairs and to the dancing. All kinds of men and all kinds of dancing: teachers at school discos, all the kids, cool and not, and every dad at every wedding. And then, exactly then, the interior-joyous don’t-care secret boy comes out to fool around. Then and only then does a man feel like he has the permission to let go and show off a bit. He left the regulation masculinity over by his chair.
It’s just about impossible to get any kind of explanation from the always out-of-bounds Kawakubo, but we were allowed to ask a few questions. Most were left unanswered but one came back with a whole paragraph.
We asked why, when the womenswear catwalk is a series of abstractions – the clothes tend to be art objects rather than clothes (the store buyers buy in a showroom that the public never sees) – is the mainline men’s catwalk full of clothes that go into production and then on to retail?
Kawakubo said: “For the Comme des Garçons collection, I always am looking for creation that didn’t exist before, that is nowhere else. While this is the fundamental basis of the Comme des Garçons collection and is what I think about all the time for Comme des Garçons company, I make clothes and other collections also with a business in mind.
The Comme des Garçons Homme Plus collection is one of those. That is why it is not abstract like the main Comme des Garçons ladies collection. This season I was thinking about a grunge feeling for the men’s collection.”
We felt that grunge feeling in the various and seemingly unconnected items, such as the dozens of basketball shorts covered in sequins worn with long, oversized jackets from your dad’s wardrobe. There were beautiful prints of dolls’ heads, a collaboration with the sculptor and textile artist Mona Luison on T-shirts. Is there a relationship between the dolls and boys at play? There were no guns or cars or cops and robbers to be seen.
At a guess, the clothes were an incorporation of the times when men were and are allowed to celebrate and enjoy Greer’s inner man: the 18th-century jacquard floral jacket linings; early 1970s rainbow stripes on jacket yokes; sequins (tons of them), high-camp fake and fluoro beast skins and that lingerie corseting again. And voluminous shorts similar to those worn by the Tudors, who loved to dress up and decorate themselves with pearls and embroidered fabrics. Indeed, the wigs worn by the models had a look of the haphazard bobs also common in Tudor times.
All this was propelled forward with that nebulous “now future” thing that Kawakubo does so well. Now, as in it’s now – here and available and very “now” – but also an out-of-reach future that could quite easily exist but we’ll never ever get to.
You kind of get the sense of “it” if you throw some adjectives in “its” direction and see if they stick and then think about Comme and all the clothes. They’re odd, powerful, abstract, quite moody, wearable yet unwearable, unseen. They’re very new but also familiar and far-fetched but… good.
It’s also worth considering how Homme Plus makes a man “feel”. Powerful (again), mysterious, “other”. Also different and bookish and like you know something that nobody else knows. You don’t feel “hot” or “sexy” because those shops are Italian and further up the road. You do feel happy, though. And the clothes are fun.
Backstage Kawakubo asked: “Why didn’t you get up and dance?
Photographer Reto Schmid
Fashion Editor Ruben Moreira
Text Richard Gray
Hair Joseph Puljalte
Make-up Satoko Watanabe
Models Olga, Dams, Morgan, Franziska, Alex and Zacharie at Success
Set designer Giovanna Martial
Casting Dourane Fall
Taken from the latest issue of 10 Men, SHIFT, POWER, NEW, on newsstands now…