Paris Fashion Week: Skull-king the catwalks

By Isaac Hindin Miller

Comme des Garcons shows hold a magical appeal for me. It's a combination of things - the nervous anticipation over whether or not I'll get in, the eclectic clash of East and West, the peculiar casting, the nonsensical clothes and the fact that Rei Kawakubo doesn't ever come out to take a bow after the finale. I've had a successful run in the last two seasons. In June last year, a well placed name drop got me through the door; in January, a kindly Japanese journalist worked his charm. This time around, I grabbed the bull by the horns and spoke to the French PR agent. I mentioned I'd left her about four phone messages (no exaggeration), and she asked for my name. In a surprising turn of events, I was on the list but the delivery of my invitation had failed. She ushered me in with a smile.

The catwalk was set up in a small corner of a much larger warehouse space. Natural light streamed down from skylights in the main room, but the runway was shrouded in darkness. The crowd was a mixture of Japanese, European and American editors and buyers (Carine Roitfeld, Jefferson Hack, Scott Schumann and Collete's Sarah Lerfel were all in attendance).

The collection was punctuated by one motif - skulls. They showed up on everything from jackets, pants and shoes, to painted-on versions on the backs of the models' heads. Suit jackets were screen printed with them or had mesh inserts that revealed them underneath.

Some outfits were made from cloths bearing hundreds of them, all crammed in together like Paris' catacombs.

Under someone else's hand it might have looked gothic, but the added checkerboard print was reminiscent of another subculture entirely - skater punks. The kind that listened to NOFX and Pennywise and wore long Dickies shorts with slip-on Vans. They too had a penchant for skulls, but theirs were more likely to appear on trucker caps than skirt suits.

Those crazy printed pieces will no doubt be an immediate hit in the label's native Japan (where they're not afraid to wear their personalities on their sleeves) - they'll probably rock the entire look head to toe. Here in the West, customers will more likely wear just one piece at a time. But the genius of Comme des Garcons is that you need only buy that one piece to feel a part of an exclusive club. And that is the mark of a successful designer brand.

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