Provocative by Design

The outrageous world of Rei Kawakubo

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Above: Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    BY: Michael Perris and Claire Connors

    Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Only the second living designer to be the subject of a fashion exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the first was Yves Saint Laurent in 1983), Rei Kawakubo represents the true avant-garde of fashion, thus making her work for Commes des Garcons the perfect theme for the 2017 Met Gala. The Met Ball, as it’s often called, is always co-hosted by Condé Nast Creative Director/Vogue Editor Anna Wintour and Vogue’s May cover girl, who this year is the visually inventive singer, Katy Perry. Referred to as The Oscars of Fashion, the gala inspires fashion designers to create wow-factor frocks for their muses (typically the hottest actresses, singers, models) in honor of Kawakubo and her vision.

French for “Like Some Boys,” Commes de Garcons was started 44 years ago in Japan by Rei Kawakubo, 74, who studied fine arts and literature at Keio University. After a few years working in advertising and then as a stylist, she began to design her own clothing line and in 1975 opened her first boutique. Within seven years, she expanded to Paris and started completely rethinking her approach to fashion. “I felt I should be doing something more powerful,” she explained. “I decided to start from zero, from nothing, to do things that have not been done before.” Mission accomplished.

Today, Kawakubo is considered to be one of the most original creators in the field and never fails to surprise, delight, and inspire her fellow designers with her collection each season. In the words of Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of The Costume Institute, “Rei has blurred the art-fashion divide with creations that often look like sculptures, challenging us to think anew about fashion’s place in contemporary culture. Our thematic show will examine the way in which Rei’s work pushes the boundaries of dress design, challenges traditional notions of beauty and creates a new aesthetic vocabulary.”

Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garcons: Art of the In-Between will run at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 4 to Sept. 4.

 

 

Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Body Meets Dress - Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Body Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

18th-Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.
18th-Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.

 

18th Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
18th Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Blood and Roses, spring/summer 2015; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Blood and Roses, spring/summer 2015; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Not Making Clothing, spring/summer 2014. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Not Making Clothing, spring/summer 2014. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.