“Fashion illusion” was Rei Kawakubo’s typically brief summation of her latest collection for men, but that was, in fact, exactly what we saw. There is something dialectical about the way Rei works. She offers a thesis one season, presents its antithesis the next, then finally synthesizes both approaches. Such was the case for Fall, which was a—dare I use the distinctly un-Comme word?—gorgeous summation of some ideas she’s been toying with for a while.
Kawakubo’s longtime hatter Stephen Jones accessorized the clothes with memorable pieces of headgear from his own archives, which seemed to underscore the fact that we were being offered an overview of some kind. The models had the limpid eyes and marcel-waved hair of silent movie starlets. On their feet were leopard slip-ons with jeweled buckles, or two-tone patent Mary Janes with big bows. And, by way of unholy contrast, they were wearing classic tailored suits in gray flannel, pinstripe, and bird’s-eye. Rei used her illusion by inserting contradictory panels of fabric into these cloths of convention: a leopard spot next to twill, a rough check in a Prince of Wales jacket, an oblique camo with bird’s-eye, or a print of a Napoleonic tailcoat hard up against gray pinstripe.
The clash of restraint and release was so irresistible, it whisked us over a more conventionally confrontational group of boiled-wool jackets and black skirts that seemed positively barbaric in comparison to what had come before. Order was restored with a three-piece suit whose waistcoat was printed on the shirt underneath. Like I said, totally dialectical.
This review was originally published on men.style.com on January 23, 2009. It has been added to Vogue Runway in June 2021 as a part of The Lost Season.