Tuesday 25th September

| BY Richard Gray

Comme Des Garçons: Ready-To-Wear SS19

It was an essay to the expectant mother. A soft and padded cotton lozenge-shaped form was strapped on to a model’s tummy and hidden under a jumpsuit. The jumpsuit was zipped open on the tummy (left-to-right) to reveal the bump of the padded form underneath. This was worn under a newspaper print stretchy body. BREAKING NEWS: Comme des Garçons was welcoming a baby. It continued. Another jumpsuit in black wool had a gaping slash at the belly; the edge of the bottom half of the slash traced a line like a cracked egg. Another burgeoning bump hung and peeped out. What did it all mean? “Fumbling around in the dark,” said designer Rei Kawakubo afterwards.

The soundtrack by Tom Waits only added to the strange atmosphere in the room as more “pregnant” models walked by. Then more bumps appeared elsewhere on the models’ bodies using more stuffed shapes: the hips, the bottom, the belly again. The result? The clothes worn above the stuffed bumps changed their line and shape. Kawakubo seemed to be asking us to consider the female form and its many geographies. Seams appeared to burst as padded body parts burst from cleverly engineered tears and zips in coats and dresses. The line-out spoke to Kawakubo’s SS97 Body Meets Dress collection, Dress Meets Body – often referred to as the “lumps and bumps”. “If we don’t take risks, then who will?” Asked the designer at the time.

The dynamic suddenly shifted from soft and shapely to unnerving, as silver chains threaded underneath garments and across the models’ bodies were left to dangle around the wrists falling from sleeves. These “broken chains”, surely, a metaphor for the control and disempowerment of women under the patriarchy. The tumescent-like pads were as strange as they were beautiful and peculiar, and they grew in size as models’ hips came strapped with bulbous growths like pieces of upholstery. Were these, too, a commentary on exaggeration and sexualisation of a woman’s shape, like, say, a crinoline cage?

Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.