PARIS — The skulls were everywhere — their hollow eyes staring out from shirts and pants, arranged in geometric crosses on the backbone — even painted in chalk on the back of the models’ heads.
But those printed eyes were not necessarily fearful and frightening in this magnificent memento mori show from Comme des Garçons. The old black and white bones might have pairs of blue sunglasses on what was once their noses or be smothered with flowers that looked nothing like graveyard blooms.
“Skull of life” was the designer Rei Kawakubo’s only contribution to unraveling the theological mystery of her subject. Were the cages of 3-D squares on leather jackets and the gaping openings in the upper sleeves symbolic of heaven’s — or hell’s — gate? Was she celebrating life after death? Could this be a hidden homage to the late Alexander McQueen, who took the skull as his symbol?
But no explanation mattered, because the clothes were so self-explanatory: a beautifully realized, graphic collection drawn with a square and in the round for the skulls. The silhouette was mostly slim and the shirts and drop-crotch pants regular, give or take the deathly, printed subject matter.
And then the collection bloomed into full skirts, also smothered with skulls, but offering a joyous bush of fabric. At her best, Ms. Kawakubo is sans pareil for imagination, daring and execution — and for arousing desire. This was one of her great collections.