Comme des Garçons’s Paper Dolls


November 16, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

Comme des Garçons Paper Doll FW2012 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion
Comme des Garçons Paper Doll FW2012 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde FashionComme des Garçons Paper Doll FW2012 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion
Comme des Garçons Paper Doll FW2012 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Wearing: Comme des Garçons AW12 jacket and AQ/AQ maxi dress

 

Ma. A Japanese concept dating back to Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. To put it in the simplest terms, it means an interval or absence in time and space. The concept of Ma can be found in all aspects of Japanese lifestyle. For example, when a Japanese bows, a short pause is included at the end before getting back up in order to strengthen the impact of the bow with regards to giving respect to the other party (source). For a deeper explanation of the concept, please click here.

The Concept of Ma in Fashion

The central tenet of European couture is to give a three-dimensional form to fabric by using curved lines and darts. The Japanese, on the other hand, often begins with the concept of a kimono – an assemblage of rectangular pieces of fabric that lays flat when unworn. However, when put on the body they acquire a life of their own independent of the shape of the wearer to create space in between the body and clothing. This spatial concept of Ma is most visible in Comme des Garçons’s AW12 collection, in which the interplay of flatness and volume is exaggerated to comic proportions.

This exaggerated excess in negative space creates a powerful imagery to any observer. We are so ingrained in viewing clothes as body covering that accentuate our body shape (ie. hourglass figure for females, powerful upper torso for male), that to wear clothing that does otherwise seems counter-intuitive and to some extent even frowned upon. To the wearer who appreciates such design, however, it provides a respite from the mainstream ideals of beauty. Not only is it enticing visually, from the practical point of view the voluminous design is unrestrictive and hence comfortable. To both wearer and observer, it raises questions concerning the relationship between clothes and the human body. Of course, how much one wants to explore the subject rests on the individual’s willingness to open up his/her mind. Some people will snicker, others poke fun at you openly, and perhaps verbal abuse might ensue in the most conservative of societies. I very much doubt we will leave the current idealised aesthetics anytime soon, but the discourse for a wider definition of beauty has been opened up by Rei Kawakubo et al., the day they brought an outsider’s perspective to the stage of Western fashion more than thirty years ago. Black has become an acceptable colour to be worn head to toe thanks to them, and perhaps one day mainstream fashion will consider incorporating the concept of Ma, in that clothes can be more than just be enhancement of the human figure and that designers do not have to worry about the absence of sexual cues in a garment.

Comme des Garçons Paper Doll coats FW12 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion
Comme des Garçons Paper Doll FW2012 | The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

(14 comments)






14 thoughts on “Comme des Garçons’s Paper Dolls

  • Lucinda

    by Lucinda on November 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Always learning something new! I wasn’t familiar with the concept of Ma and it makes wonderful sense in the context of the ‘Paper Dolls’ collection. From a wearer’s perspective, I find exaggerated volumes more challenging than body consciousness. As you say, it’s defiantly rejecting accepted gendered silhouette.

    Reply
  • Adele

    by Adele on November 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I’ve been lurking here for a few weeks and it’s definitely time to say hello! I appreciate your attitude toward fashion and your approach to blogging. Beautiful and enlivening! Thanks for sharing, yours is my favourite blog right now. This concept of Ma is something I am observing often around me in fashion students designs and in photography. I’m glad I can now call it by its right name, and know a little more about it.

    Reply
    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on November 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Adele, very glad to have you here. Thank you for your kind words and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading my blog in the future.

      Reply
  • The Minx

    by The Minx on November 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I cannot believe I’m just discovering your blog now, your style is flawless! I also love the care you put into each post, I feel like I’ve really learned something about this beautiful technique :)

    Reply
    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on November 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad it was informative.

      Reply
  • Bertrand

    by Bertrand on November 24, 2013 at 1:14 am

    There is this famous art critique called Clement Greenberg who spoke about ‘Medium Specificity': for him one of the distinctive features of modernist art and painting in particular, was that it was trying to respect the format to which it was bound: for example, abstract painting, which he takes as the foremost form of modernist painting, abandon the representation of the third dimension, because since it is painted on a 2D, flat surface anyway. Instead of painting rooms in perspectives that would ape the reality, the painter went for flat colours or geometrics.
    I have noticed that with the introduction of those new rigid technical materials like latex or neoprene, there has been a trend for ‘flattening’ the silhouette in womenswear! As if fashion, which as you note, is naturally three-dimensional decided to try and go the other way! I am not sure how comfortable that make the garments, but that certainly look interesting, as if the wearer’s movements were breaking the plane of the garment…
    I had not heard of ‘Ma’ but that’s really interesting!

    Reply
    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on November 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Bertrand,
      Very funny you should mention neoprene and those technical fabrics. It may have to do with the current resurgence of Minimalism that is now focusing on robotic, inorganic shapes, not sure which precedes the other though. Coincidentally I have just received a Margiela sweatshirt made of neoprene, with flat front and balloon sleeves. So very roomy and light, definitely comfortable to wear. The only problem with voluminous garments is that the shape is ruined somewhat when one carries a bag on the shoulder. Such is the middle class life, not having anyone to carry your bag for you.

      Thank you for your insight into the artist, by the way. I just embarked on the journey of properly understanding the concept of Modernism and Post-Modernism.

      Reply
      • Bertrand

        by Bertrand on November 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm

        (Re-reading my grammatically challenged post above, I think I should say of latex its not ‘rigid’ but I do find it somewhat flattening in terms of silhouette) – I am looking forward to some styling with that neoprene sweater! Prorsum had some amazing MW neoprene tailoring a few years back, but it seems this sort of sculptural material did not take off in terms of MW sale – I love the squishyness though!
        A great book to get started on modernism for design-minded individuals is Paul Greenhalgh’s The Modern Ideal ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Modern-Ideal-Enlightenment-Postmodernism/dp/1851774696/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1385724965&sr=8-2&keywords=the+modern+ideal ) – its richly illustrated, very readable and addresses both the ideology, the art and the design of modernism, stretching all the way from the XIXth century to the minimalism and brutalism. And the cheap second-hand price suits rather well our middle-class budgets!

        Reply
        • Gracia Ventus

          by Gracia Ventus on December 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

          That would be so useful, thank you. I’ve only started on the introductions and already I am confused beyond reason.

          Reply
          • Bertrand

            by Bertrand on December 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm

            It can be a bit confusing at first but its totally worth it: the concepts are as sleak and elegant as the artworks! My advices would 1/ leave post-modernism to the side as you start, its quite overwrought and it will come easily once you get what was modernism, and 2/ focus on design and visual arts, rather than literature or poetry, where the idea of ‘modernism’ is a whole lot more nebulous and confusing!

  • karl leuterio

    by karl leuterio on January 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    i love love love love love love!!!!

    Reply
  • Annabel

    by Annabel on February 23, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I am a past customer of yours on ebay, but I had no idea that you had a blog! I’m so glad I clicked on the link! It’s not often that you find a fashion blog with such an exclusive niche, and my niche, at that. I have some pieces from the paper doll collection, but I have never seen the jacket that you have on in this post, and it is stunning. If you ever want to put it up for sale, please contact me first! I will pay whatever you want for it. I will be a regular visitor from now on.

    Reply
    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on February 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Annabel! Thank you for reading and I’m ever so glad that you enjoy the things I’ve put up online. I will definitely go to you first should I have a need to let go of the coat.

      Reply
      • Annabel

        by Annabel on February 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

        Yes, please do! Thank you!

        Reply

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