It’s easy to see the current move away from fashion-as-entertainment as contextual: a momentary pause instigated by an accident of award season timing. Since the runway shows can’t compete with the show at the Shrine Auditorium when it comes to global eyeballs, why even try?
Still, there’s another answer that is more systemic, and, in fact, more convincing: beyond the live stream, brands rise or fall on the strength of their products and all the bells and whistles (and UFOs and crazy hats) can’t disguise a lazy collection. But they do detract from a really good one.
See, for example, Junya Watanabe’s dance of the dark petalled flowers (or something like that), where dresses and jackets were composed of overlapping rounds of contrasting textures, all in black, with sequins layered on lace layered on wool layered on lame, and so on, like a wearable camellia. Curves met up with ruffles met up with tailcoats met up with sequinned cropped trousers (for a touch of cool) and in the end, that was all that was needed to have the audience in a swoon.
This is something Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons has always understood, which is perhaps why she had never bothered with anything besides the plain frame of the runway for her work, which has the demand for thought and attention woven into its fabric. Or, this season, knit in, as the whole collection was made almost entirely in ribbed yarn, with the occasional very oversized tailored jacket, but pretty much no bottoms (just patterned tights, a sequin bloomer and one tutu). Though, to be sure, they were not the sort of knits that have been a ubiquitous trend all season.
Rather, these knits were tube-like and layered, and sometimes looked like engine pipes encasing a torso and other times like worms, and pretty much always called to mind recycled school uniform cardigans, or what is otherwise called “ the granddad cardigan” and tend to be a favourite of fireside chatting politicians (except not, admittedly, in this form). And sometimes they climbed up and swallowed the head, or dropped down in braids and knots to the knees, but they pretty much always consumed.
It was, said the designer, about “monsters” – not the fun-house kind, but the chaotic kind we are afraid to let out in our own heads. And it was plenty dramatic, all on its own.