Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

July 05, 2017 3:00 PM

Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and TWELV could not agree more. Bolton continues, “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.” The museum introduced its new spring collection surrounding the iconic Japanese designer earlier in May. In case you haven't yet had a chance to see the awe-inspiring exhibit, we invite you to discover “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” on view until September 4th.

Whose work other than that of Kawakubo could be the genesis of a reflection about the concept of absence and presence? The exhibition displays approximately 130 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons from the early 1980’s to her most recent collection. Through these designs, the exhibit examines the designer’s obsession with in-between space. This in-between space can be found in her aesthetic sensibility and her visual ambiguity, always questioning the conventional notions of beauty. “In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Met, who also lauded Bolton saying, “Curator Andrew Bolton explores work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that challenges our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.” 

Since founding Comme des Garçons in 1969 and debuting her Paris collection in 1981, Rei Kawakubo has defined a new, internationally-recognized aesthetic. “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design...by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion...imbalance... unfinished... elimination...and absence of intent,” explained the designer. Her unique fusion of art and fashion has excelled her to the top of the design world, and as a result, this exhibition is the Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983. 

To fully understand Kawakubo’s incredible vision, the exhibition articulates around nine predominant themes of interstitiality in her collections: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/ Not Clothes. Embodied by magnificent heads and wigs created and styled by Julien d’Ys, Kawakubo’s clothing shows the artificiality, arbitrariness, and emptiness of conventional dichotomies– the art of the “in-between”. “My clothes and the spaces they inhabit are inseparable—they are one and the same. They convey the same vision, the same message, and the same sense of values,” said Kawakubo.  Linked to the Zen Buddhism concepts of mu (無 - emptiness) and ma (間 - space), her art allows meaningful connections and transformations to create new possibilities and continue to pour delicate drops of a unique and architectural fashion into the world.

 

 

WRITTEN BY LOUISE GUILLOT

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTO CREDIT: THE MET

 

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