Comme des Garcons’ SS 2011 collection was probably the most underappreciated and misunderstood of the last decade. The reason? In this collection, garments that looked like jackets were actually meant to be worn as skirts and jackets that were meant to be three jackets in one were, and meant to be worn only one layer at a time (see demonstration above) were improperly photographed or displayed for both stores and online boutiques, who typically showed the jackets as two smaller jackets stuffed into a larger jacket (see photo above, center.) This made the jacket appear unflattering and unappealing.
It is only when this collection is seen on the runway, and allowed to be seen from a 360 degree perspective, that the viewer had the opportunity to appreciate garments that were designed to be appreciated from every perspective – not only that from the perch facing the runway. The jacket was the key trope of the collection. A large number of garments were designed so that with some manipulation it could ultimately appear as a (awkwardly proportioned) jacket. However, when actually worn on the body the jacket was sometimes meant to be worn as a skirt, as a single layer jacket with either one or two jackets hanging off the backand invisible when viewed straight on, or as a jacket, which when pulled apart, is meant to be worn as a stole.
It doesn’t surprise me that Comme des Garcons’ AW 2012 critically acclaimed (and wildly popular) “Paper Dolls” collection was widely interpreted as a critique of the exclusivity of the runway. For the SS 2011 show, only the few people who received invitations to the shows, or who had access to the market showroom, would have had the privilege of seeing the designer’s original intention for the garment. Those who were not able to view the collection as it moved down the runway and as it passed by one’s seat would not see the coats hanging behind the wearer, particularly as photos taken for fashion magazines would show only the frontal perspective. The lay viewer rarely had an opportunity to see the details and few understood the concept without having the benefit of those extra degrees of perspective.
Perhaps as a reaction to the missed details of the SS 2011 collection, garments from the AW 2012 collection imitated paper doll clothing – the kind that you dressed a paper form by attaching the dress using paper tabs and required only a view in two dimensions to see the whole of the garment. In the runway viewing of AW 2012, the sides of the garment were held so that the silhouette could be seen and appreciated in its entirety by looking straight-on the model. By having the sides of the coats and dresses held so they would hang horizontally along the body, the collection could be appreciated in two-dimensions. There was nothing hidden or to be discovered by examining the back of the garment.
I was able to pick up a few items from SS 2011 from the rack, benefitting from the general misunderstanding of that collection, Even on the rack, jackets that were meant to be worn as skirts – and I felt this was overly obvious from the proportions of the “jacket” – hung on the racks as jackets. At least someone won that season.