By Anna Hill
I was 18 when I first saw clothing from the Fashion label, Comme Des Garcons, and I promptly fell in love. The clothes were a masterpiece of bizarre, a feast for the eyes. They were subversions of contemporary approaches to dressing, and “dressing well for your body shape”. The first outfits I saw were from the Spring/Summer 1997 collection and they fascinated, repulsed and excited me all at once. The collection was called Body meets dress, dress meets body (or lumps and bumps by the press), and it is not an understatement to say that it changed me.
I accessed CDG for the first time through a queer fashion blogger named Arabelle Sicardi (who in turn I had discovered through the online magazine for teen girls – Rookiemag). Arabelle’s passion of Comme Des Garcons (amongst other things) was exciting, and by following their tumblr, I learnt and saw a lot. Without finding Arabelle I don’t think I would love myself as much as I do now or be as inspired by myself – they helped me to accept the queer parts of me, to allow the space between who I was and who I wanted to be inspire me. Comme des Garçons furthered this understanding and acceptance of myself in a visual way too.
Before Comme des Garcons, I loved interesting, non-conforming ways of dressing, but I was a little put off by the industry/business side of fashion, so I didn’t delve deeper into any other labels. I wore (and still wear) fairly bizarre things and I would write about Alexander McQueen’s Oyster dress (who was far enough removed for me) and wear knee high patterned socks. I’ve also always appreciated well made, or at least interestingly made clothes because I sew my own and love trying to figure out just how things have been put together.
CDG combines all the things that nourish and excite me, opening my eyes to a new way of being and for that I am infinitely grateful. Rei Kawakubo, the woman in charge of Comme des Garcons, expresses such wonder in her clothing and is a great example of someone using their rage and their energy to create beautiful and ugly things (in other words, she is an activist, like me or you). Loving Comme des Garcons means that it is easier to accept that perfection and rigidity are both repugnant and dull concepts, and that fluidity and ugliness are more enticing (a lot of her clothes are made to look unfinished, unhemmed, asymmetrical, broken even – much like me!).
Kawakubo’s focus on the future and on newness make for very Queer clothes. There are as many ways to wear particular CDG pieces as there are colours in the sky. Kawakubo regularly shows me the women/girl/thing I would like to be, unbothered by others’ opinions and fearless and wild. The misshapen clothes and the freedom that the wearer has is exciting and lets me explore my own queerness and fluidity.
CDG also gives me tools to work with my own insecurities and the monsters inside of me. When I went through a really bad patch of Gender Dysphoria I was able to respond imaginatively through following an aesthetic that enabled me to feel better. I called it #slug-looks and it mostly consists of minimal, baggy clothing that allows the wearer to feel like a genderless slug, and/or, like they are more clothing than body, and when your body is not the way you will it to be, that relationship (that of body – clothes) can be healing. Loosing your body can help you see why you love/need one. And loosing your body in CDG can help make the process more productive and can help you evolve and survive.
Comme des Garcons has taught me to question, question, question – to fight against heteronormativity, to question beauty standards and ask why we should follow particular trends. It has taught me that I should not apologise for the space I take up, literally and metaphorically, considering the clothes themselves can be bulky and expansive (think of the bumpy, lumpy gingham dresses of 1997). As well as that Kawakubo’s work confronts us, and aims to make us uncomfortable – her ugly creations help us rethink our own ideas. Ultimately CDG taught me that there is no more too strange, no more too large, too ugly, too queer, because all of me is enough. It allowed me to excavate and express parts of myself I did not realise I needed to let breathe and I look at the creations of Kawakubo now and I am undone and I become.