The Weirdos of Paris Fashion Week: Vivienne Westwood, Junya Watanabe, and Comme des Garçons
The following is not cool to say — kind of like admitting that you don't "get" modern art or you didn't "love" reading Ulysses — but it's the truth: Sometimes high fashion is really ugly. Weird, visually unappealing, and I'd-rather-wear-Crocs ugly. I can appreciate it, I can write about its nuances and references, but I'll keep wearing my skinny jeans and Converse, thanks! Show me a real girl who looks good in this fleshy, baggy, calf-length leather dress from Balenciaga, and I'll be like, Dude, that's Joan Smalls, you're cheating.
With all that being said, weird/ugly fashion is awesome. We just have to approach it on different terms, with an eye toward the art of it, and not necessarily the wearability. Granted, there are people whose first reaction to Saturday's bizarre Comme des Garçons show was "GASP! I JUST FOUND MY WEDDING DRESS!" but those people are few and far between and probably robots. There's a reason haute couture is displayed on the runway, and not the street: it's a performance, not real life.
Paris, so insouciant and subtle in its streetstyle, has always loved its high-fashion weirdos. They let Karl Lagerfeld live there, after all. And on Saturday, the freaks were out full force.
The Vivienne Westwood show was supposedly inspired by the Middle Ages, but in reality it was more of a mishmash homage to woman in all her iterations: a Roman goddess (complete with crown of laurels), a shepherdess with staff, a milk maid, a pilgrim, a 1980s working woman, a plaid Seattle grunge girl, a witch, and so forth. The clothing was disjointed, but the models were unified in their makeup, which was designed to make them look, well, a little muddy and beat-up, all the way down to faux scratches on their legs. Instead of a tribute to a specific time period, it was more of a tribute to costume — and, at its core, isn't that what the idea of clothing is at the end of the day? A way to disguise your true (ahem, nude) self?
Many of Junya Wantanabe's looks had that ugly-pretty thing going on, but his collection did have a distinctly wearable element, and the long fringed skirts, beige jackets, slitted shirts, and spiky shoes will definitely appear in many real-girl wardrobes. But the extremity of the styling was really what pushed his clothes into the realm of the weird. Fringe was paired with more and more fringe, until the effect was heavy and suffocating; hacked-off pieces of denim were fastened onto flowy skirts in (seemingly) haphazard fashion, and each outfit was topped off with braided/dreadlocked hairdos that crawled claustrophobically over the models' faces. The collection was designed to conjure up Native Americana, but the pieced-together, torn-apart look of the collection also called to mind a woman in an aslyum, obsessively shredding one of her t-shirts.
Who is the weirdest of them all? Rei Kawakubo, of course. Her designs for Comme des Garçons were inspired by... not-clothes. The opposite of clothes. The absence of the idea of clothes. If you're approaching her show with an eye toward take-away trends, you're doing it all wrong. Kawakubo showed off a sculptural, bizarro collection that seemed designed as more of a high-art guessing game (what does it all mean?) than anything resembling fashion.
The New York Times reported that the models looked "noble and beautiful or even pretty," but, with all due respect, no. They didn't. They looked weird, and creepy, and trapped inside their freaky non-clothes. And that's exactly what was cool about it. It was disorienting, uncomfortable, over-the-top conceptual. It wasn't fashion at all. It was subversive, really — performance art about the idea of non-clothes staged in the exact space where clothes were supposed to be.
Images: @sharondrijanski, @wdfashions via Instagram; @indyfashion, @ilovea_mcqueen via Twitter