Sunday, May 14, 2017


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 Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garçons The Art of In-Between at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Installation View 9.7 Order / Chaos

Limitless. Shocking. Defiant
Breaking from the fashion fold, Rei Kawakubo declares independence from the confines of conventional clothes-making and Commes des Garçons headlines her un-commercial, un-apologetic aesthetic. For "outsiders," a blurring of the legible mold of "fashion"--as defined by figure-flattery and templated garments that account for head, legs and arms--is unsettling. When confronted with the "aggressively unattractive," critical commentary eclipses the sheer brilliance of the petite Japanese designer with an understated personality and overstated design sense. The first Monday this May, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens its annual Costume Institute exhibit honoring a living designer for only the second time (since Diana Vreeland's retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent in 1983). Rei Kawakubo / Commes des Garçons : Art of the In Between is not so much a retrospective as an introspective of the creator and her collections, once shrouded in an enigmatic aura. Keep reading for a look inside...

Remarks by Andrew Bolton at the press preview; Anna Winter, Rei Kawakubo, Caroline Kennedy and Adrian Joffe are among celebrated attendees

Lucky enough to score a front row seat at the press preview, I spy a thick spread of celebrities at the opening remarks including Anna Wintour, Rei Kawakubo, Adrian Joffe, Caroline Kennedy, Thom Browne and Grace Coddington (alongside others). After Caroline Kennedy's brief comments, Andrew Bolton addresses the audience, detailing theoretical intricacies behind the exhibit's design and presenting accolades of the uncompromising achievements of Rei Kawakubo. Bolton notes, "Rei has taught us that the body has no balance and that the potential of clothing is limitless. In so doing, she has placed fashion at the epicenter of modern culture…. Through her fashion, she points to the absurdity of age-old sibling rivalries between art and fashion by promoting an art without obsolete hierarchies and majority classifications. Rei’s art is magnanamous. They are defined by candor, criticality and contemporaneity.”

1. Absence / Presence // 1.1-1.2 Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, 1.3 2 Dimensions

Viewing 'experience' as an impediment to true ingenuity, Rei Kawakubo's transient outlook on design is effectively an obsession with constantly creating 'new.' The exhibit is a feat in its own, as Kawakubo's preference is to dwell only on the current. An unprecedented collaborative compromise between Bolton and Kawakubo yields a cautiously curated display of multiple collections arranged in 9 expressions of "in-between-ness"--Absence/Presence; Design/Not Design; Fashion/ Antifashion; Model/Multiple; High/Low; Then/Now; Self/ Other; Object/Subject; and Clothes/Not Clothes. It's interesting to note that some items deemed too "understandable" were removed from the exhibit.

2. Design / Not Design // 2.1 The Future of Silhouette (A/W 2017-2018)

Simply stated by Andrew Bolton,"Rei’s clothes have often been described as indecipherable and that term--at least for me--stems from the fact that they exist in the space between entites or bandiers -an in between space that establishes an unsettling zone of oscillating visual ambiguity and elusiveness." The exhibit's title alludes to Kawakubo's creations as the bridge between the opposing forces in each of the 9 categories, inspired by the Zen koans of mu (emptiness) and ma (space) and exuding the purity of her vision. Stay tuned for Part 2... More to Come!

2. Design / Not Design // 2.2-2.5 Crush (S/S 2013)

2.Design / Not Design // 2.6-2.9 Clustering Beauty (S/S 1998), 2.11-2.14 (A/W 1997-98 and S/S 2010)

4. Model / Multiple // 4.1-6 Abstract Excellence (S/S 2004)

5. High / Low // 5.1.1-5.1.3 Ballerina Motorbike (S/S 2005)

5. High / Low // 5.2.1-2 Good Taste / Bad Taste (A/W 2008-9)

6.Then / Now // 6.2 Birth / Marriage / Death; Broken Bride (A/W 2005-6), White Drama (S/S 2012)

 7. Self / Other // 7.1 East / West 7.1.1-3 Cubisme (S/S 2007), 7.1.4-5 Lost Empire (S/S 2006), 7.1.6-8 Inside Decoration (A/W 2012-13)

 7. Self / Other // [M, R] 7.2.3-4 The Infinity of Tailoring (A/W 2013-14); [L] 7.2.5 Transcending Gender (S/S 1995)

7. Self / Other // [R] 7.3.1 2 Dimensions (A/W 2012-13), [M] 7.3.2 Cacophony (S/S 2008), [L] 7.3.3-4 Not Making Clothing (S/S 2014)

Up Close!

 8. Object/Subject // 8.1-9 Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body (Spring / Summer 1997)

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