All things must come to an end. Sometimes it happens for reasons we can't control; at others we are the ones who take a stand and decide to change the course of things.
Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo falls into this category: the announcement that some things would be changing for what regarded her new collection was indeed made via email before the S/S 19 runway show that took place last week at the École des Beaux-Arts' Palais des Études, during Paris Fashion Week.
For the last 10 seasons Kawakubo set upon challenging the boundaries of fashion by showing abstract forms that didn't have much to do with fashion but combined this discipline with art and with sculpture in particular.
Critics loved this conceptual exercise that for quite a few seasons broke the relentless visual tour de force of fashion shows, during which you usually see a lot of clothes and accessories, but often you never have the time to think about concepts, ideas and inspirations.
The symbolism behind Kawakubo's gigantic bulbous shapes and silhouettes, strange and enigmatic globules of fabrics and assorted an unidentifiable materials mesmerised and fascinated, suggesting her audiences that it was possible to do a show about fashion with no real clothes included since, after all, there is always space for proper garments in showrooms and boutiques.
Yet, the email announced, Kawakubo started feeling that this approach was no longer new and it had to stop. And so it stopped, but it did so in her own way and on her own terms.
The S/S 19 runway opened with models in Julien d'Ys' long white wigs: they may have signaled maturity, wisdom and experience, maybe they were a way to say goodbye to youthfulness, but with no regrets or nostalgia.
Padded parts protruded from the slashed fabric around the bellies; in some cases the double-breasted jackets and coats seemed cracked open as if they were eggs.
The padded elements then moved along the hips forming pannier-like constructions that pointed to 17th and 18th century fashion.
Heavy chains emerged from the hems and sleeves of second-skin dresses donned by two models, and the garments were matched with cut off tailored jackets (or maybe half-formed designs?).
There were obvious symbols: the struggles to be a mother and of being a mother, but pregnant bellies cracked open were not only references to giving physical birth to another human being, but to the creative idea, at times symbolised by a vintage newspaper print that emerged from the bodysuits worn underneath.
In Kawakubo's case the idea of birth probably also referred to the responsibility that comes from keeping on creating, strengthening her global business, supporting the Dover Street Market boutiques and the Comme des Garçons cult - pardon brand.
The chains could have been a reference to many things - the female condition and the shackles of womanhood; meeting the expectations set by your family or work; rising to the standards; looking as impossibly perfect as they tell you to be online; matching your real life with your perfectly curated Instagram profile; being trapped by conventions and constrictions; feeling pressures and struggling to find freedom in a society that has seen many changes and revolutions, but that is still repressing women (think about US President Donald Trump publicly mocking Dr Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school).
There were clothes beneath the symbols: trouser suits and jumpsuit tuxedos covered in sparkly textiles with the consistency of tinsel; slashed coats revealing bodysuits and leggings with newspaper print, rose tattoos or with the Comme des Garçons logo; a grey geometrical dress made with hexagon-shaped elements forming a fabric honeycomb; coats and jackets decorated with large knots and draped elements and shoes made in collaboration with Nike (Vapormax footwear decorated with CdG charms and chains).
Over twenty years may have gone since the "Lumps and Bumps" collection and this was a new version of those conceptual designs, rearranged and revolving around the possibility of a woman turning her back on things and changing everything to avoid being pigeonholed into categories.
"I wanted to exhaust the way of creation, to see how far I could take making powerful clothes, even to the point where the clothes became abstract,” Kawakubo, who at 75 is considered a venerable oracle of fashion, stated in her email.
"This time, after ten collections, I felt this approach was no longer new. I looked for what is next, but I couldn't find it. In the end there was a profoundly internal approach," she continued.
And while some may find difficult to grasp certain hidden concepts just by looking at the designs on the runway, there is something easy to get for everybody keen to hear: unlike other designers Kawakubo had the courage to honestly say the previous approach wasn't working anymore.
"Advancing ahead while fumbling around in the dark is also a risk. I believe that Comme des Garçons should choose the latter," she concluded. Somehow you know that advancing in the dark may not be the safest option, but pretending all is good and well and that certain established formats can still work during fashion weeks would have probably been even worse. Better to be honest then and walk in the dark than lie about fashion being a hilariously fun and conceptually pleasing place to be.