As profits become more and more important and the fashion world becomes more and more dependent on huge financial backers, it is a true relief to see that Rei Kawakubo has maintained her distinctly 'fuck you' attitude to fashion design. Never one to adhere to the formulas of wearability or the form of the female silhouette, this season Kawakubo recognised her own status as fashion icon and pored over her own archive with an experimental eye, taking her signature codes and fusing them together to create amalgamations of some of her greatest work.
The opening look was a clear reference to the infamous collection of dresses designed as 2D objects - a collection which was met with a bemused response from mainstream media, leading to its reputation as 'the one with the fat dresses'. The 2D silhouette was still present, but this time the outlines had been engineered in a thick black foam, whereas the fabric of the dress itself was transparent, revealing a glimpse at the black harness that lurked beneath, exposed nipples and all. This has always been the most fascinating juxtaposition in Kawakubo's work - the balance of innocence and dominance, her exaggerated silhouettes creating a spacial boundary between the wearer and those around her, yet with sheer material and exposed flesh allowing a provocative hint of vulnerability.
Throughout the collection, there were countless reinterpretations of classic Kawakubo looks - from the white foam cages of the 'White Drama' collection through to the exaggerated lumps of her 1997 collection and the ragged toile of the 'Broken Bride', the emphasis was on the fact that Kawakubo is seemingly inspired by nobody but herself, always seeking to create something completely new. Even her trademark polka dots made an appearance, but in here they were huge distorted polka-dot holes cut into an oversized white vest dress, complete with squared-off shoulders and frayed seams.
Every look in the collection had its own accompanying piece of music, created by music 'artists' Twenty Hertz and DJ's Hell's Kitchen. The mere fact that even the musicians involved are considered artists show that Kawakubo exists in space somewhere between fashion and art - too 'experimental' to please some of fashion's more superficial followers, always seeking to push boundaries and challenge the zeitgeist. For this reason, she is every fashion fan's dream to write about, study and generally fall in love with - her collections are always intellectual, highly-researched and usually with a strong social messages steeped with meaning and reference. Her commercial success is reassurance that it is possible to create avant-garde fashion whilst continuing to make profit, a position that many designers aspire to occupy. In this collection, she has almost created a definitive 'Greatest Hits' of her own career, whilst still showing acute awareness of how she is viewed by the general public.