January 2020 feels like a million years ago—a time when one of the most exciting, if emerging, trends to discuss was that of men wearing pearls, from the runway to the red carpet. Then Commes des Garçons x Mikimoto happened, giving unisex pearl jewelry all the credibility it needed to gender-bend and otherwise disrupt traditional norms.
A year and two months later and it’s déjà vu of the best kind: The 2.0 installment of the Commes des Garçons x Mikimoto collaboration launches this Friday, encompassing seven new necklaces designed by Commes des Garçons visionary Rei Kawakubo.
The necklaces feature Mikimoto akoya pearls mixed with sterling silver fangs, studs, and safety pins.
Kawakubo’s Spring 2021 ready-to-wear presentation was shrouded in red light, suggesting turmoil or perhaps, more literally, a raging fever. The collection itself was discordant, futuristic, and the voluminous shapes were draped in swathes of plastic. An exaggerated, avant-garde form of PPE? One look had a Minnie Mouse print. Clashing themes are a Kawakubo signature, and the 2.0 collaboration with Mikimoto is no exception.
Kawakubo’s official statement in the press release: “The value of traditional beauty held by Mikimoto pearls combined with the completely opposite strength of chains was the design point of the first collection. For this second collection, safety pins, studs, and fangs, which express even more a strong image of rebellious spirit, are combined with Mikimoto pearls to make a single design. Two things that never exist together in a design becomes one design.”
Certainly pairing fangs and studs with pearls successfully subverts the narrative that a strand of pearls must always be elegant, demure, and country-club tasteful. The juxtaposition feels intentional. The message: Tear into the status quo and bite it till it behaves.
As for the safety pins, I’m seeing two possible subtexts. They are a playful acknowledgment of the fact that we’re barely holding it together—we’ve hastily fastened the fabric of our lives in the pandemic era with a handful of safety pins, and maybe if we’re wearing our Mikimoto pearls no one will notice.
But then I go back to Kawakubo’s allusion to rebellion and I think that maybe the thing that is breaking under pressure is the hegemony itself, with glass ceilings and gender constructs shattering, and the only thing securing conservative values in place is a wire-thin, archaic solution that has neither the strength nor the weight nor the ingenuity of the new guard.
And the center will not hold, so get out the way.
Top: The Commes des Garçons x Mikimoto collection will be available at select Commes des Garçons, Dover Street Market, and Mikimoto locations globally. Akoya pearl and silver necklace, $7,200.
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