Rei Kawakubo and Jun Takahashi presented their collections in Tokyo while Raf Simons rode solo for his label in Belgium: discover what went down behind closed doors

Amidst the incessant overflowing of miscellaneous things, the deluge of colour, the flooding of sound and the inundation of information. I needed to take one breath in the monochrome serenity,” read the show’s notes. It is through her evocative words, that Rei Kawakubo shed light on the need to break free from a world that is overburdened with too much information. This excess that the designer refers to in her fleeting statement posted on Comme’s instagram was filtered through a rigorous monochromatic palette, the overarching theme executed in her Landscape of Shadows presentation, unveiled amid Kawakubo’s small circle.

The models walked down the runway to the beat of minimal music by artist White Stains, wearing balloon-like ball gowns made in exclusively black and white tulle, styled with top hats created by stylist and Dazed editor-in-chief Ibrahim Kamara, his first debut in millinery. Each of the twenty dresses were complemented by trainers that were born through a new collaboration with the brand – heeled Nike sneakers and Salomon trail runners. Kawakubo’s concept of monochrome serenity was translated by wrapped, distorted fabrics that envelop the body, sometimes styled with a massive blazer, cloaks or leggings printed with polka dots. A few jersey dresses draped over wireframes in the front and spherical protrusions – A Kawakubo trademark-in the back for an irreverent take on Victorian silhouettes.

The Japanese legendary designer’s use of black struck a chord in 80s Paris – something that was perceived as a rather radical contrast to the pinks and greens of Claude Montana and Mugler. It is a collection that stems from escapism, whether that be through finding solace yet again in the absence of color, or using clouds of smoke as an ethereal gateway to a brave new world.

A sequence of words flowed throughout the collection in a multimedia presentation shot inside the Barenzaal and C-mine, Genk, giving us very Sci-Fi drama-chic – ataraxia, equanimity, dichotomy, synchronicity, allegiance, and devotion. “A equilibrium, contrast between disparate elements, surprising similarities and comparisons, a passion for and loyalty to particular themes, concepts, and inspirations,” according to the show’s notes.

Raf Simons returned to the virtual stage only one month after announcing his third partnership with Miuccia Prada to debut his men’s and women’s Fall 2021 collections. Models strode down the angsty former coal mine and power plant in Belgium, in maxi quilted A-line jackets layered with see-through knits, paired with relaxed flares ranging from deep purple to aquamarine. “The re-scaling of garments suggests different form language and new purposes, as does their rematerialisation,” said the press release.

A series of exquisitely constructed crisp white shirts had been clipped by some Frankenstein-esque accessories: a miniature reproduction of a skeleton hand in silver, balck and acid green clenched tightly onto the forearm. Camelia-shaped strass brooches adorned some knitwear pieces.

The show’s track repeated the word “radioactivity,” a tune that came from Kraftwerk. The German band commonly known as electronic music’s innovators and forefathers. As a teenager growing up in Neerpelt, Simons found solace in music, especially Kraftwerk’s 1978 album.

“It is the hope we have for what lies ahead of our daily worries and anxieties. It is a world view created for those individuals in today’s society that live each and every day with constant conflicting emotions,”  wrote Jun Takahashi  in his show notes. It is the state of despair that is affecting humanity as a whole in a moment of health crisis, that the designer drew inspiration from.

Child-looking models appeared first on the runway, clad in a series of pyjama sets that were overlaid with daytime basics including cardigans and denim tops – looking down, moving at a lethargic pace with eyes barely open and shoeless, as if they were sleepwalking. A new version of the Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ reworked by Thom Yorke fitted beautifully with the desperate looking faces of models, hence why Takahashi titled the collection “Creep Very.” However, look after look, a stronger focus was placed on glamour, with romantic couture elements, particularly a cropped jacket featuring beautifully knitted roses,  inspired by the obscure and twisted works of the Swedish artist Markus Åkesson.

There was an Evangelion theme that travelled through the entire lineup, a Japanese ‘90s anime series about robot humanoids that fight the dark forces. The references to Hideaki Anno’s anime are very noticeable in the down jackets, black parkas, caps, bomber jackets, and sweaters  with prints portraying the anime characters and their robotic alter-egos. A series of pitch-black, galactic headdresses perfectly represent the features of the Evangelion Units.

It appears that the collection’s hero has evolved into a highly relatable character: Shinji Ikari, a fourteen-year-old apparently weak and insecure but who, thanks to the purity of his soul, was able to pilot the EVA 01 – the robot destined for him – and lead the human race to battle against enemy forces in a post-apocalyptic world.