Rei Kawakubo preview breaks media record at the Met

Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo preview breaks media record at the Met


Kawakubo designs Met Shop — that will sell limited-edition items — in her black signature polka dots recast in a shade of the museum’s signature red

The following article appeared in the May 1 edition of Women’s Wear Daily (WWD):

By Rosemary Feitelberg with contributions from Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Mistaking the 100-plus-person line outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday morning (May 1) as one for museumgoers, a few out-of-towners found themselves out of luck, after a security guard explained the museum was closed to the public but open for a press preview.

More than 600 media types — an all-time high — turned out for the big reveal of The Costume Institute’s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.” Patrick Li, Eugene Tong, Cecilia Dean, Simon Doonan and Thom Browne filed through the futuristic design, while photographers and camera crews huddled around curator in charge Andrew Bolton.

Testimony to Kawakubo’s reputation of being a designer’s designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino, was among the first to take in the exhibit. After peering into one of the circular spheres to check out five designs from the fall 2016 “18th Century Punk” collection, he said, “It’s amazing. I have to say, I love her work. I am really impressed to see all of this beauty together.”

“My impression [of the show] is not to have a sense of time. Everything can be yesterday, today and tomorrow. I like this idea of no time in fashion. This [show] is something that will last,” Piccioli said. “I feel quietly very touched by the sense of life — the sense that my fabric is birth, marriage and death. There is a sense of life in it.” Having not met Kawakubo personally, Piccioli said he will be “very happy” to do so that night.

Valentino — as well as Condé Nast, Farfetch, H&M and Warner Bros. — provided financial support for the exhibition and benefit, as did lead sponsor Apple for the second year in a row. In his remarks, the Met’s outgoing director Thomas Campbell thanked all of the aforementioned, before introducing one of the Met Gala’s honorary chairs, Caroline Kennedy. Back in New York after three years as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Kennedy will praise Kawakubo for her “commitment to excellence and attention to detail.” Kennedy will share her Met Gala duties with Kawakubo, who was also at the event but characteristically remained low-key and silent. (The co-chairs will be Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Anna Wintour.)

After praising Bolton and Campbell for designing for the here and now, Kennedy mentioned how when her children visited her in Japan, they counted on a trip to the Comme des Garçons store to see the latest and greatest. Kawakubo was commended by Kennedy, who told the crowd how she had once welcomed the designer to the U.S. Embassy in Japan and now was honored to be doing so in New York. The former First Daughter also noted how the exhibition has come along at a time in today’s world where each of us is considering how to stand for something. She was then ushered out the door with the other VIPs after a quick photo-op.

Had they exited through the Met Shop, adjacent to the exhibition in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, they would have found the exhibition catalogue by Bolton. Designed by Fabien Baron, the Yale University-published book showcases over 120 examples of Kawakubo’s women’s wear along with quotes from her about her creative process and aesthetic. It also features new work by such photographers as Craig McDean, Inez & Vinoodh and Paolo Roversi.

Kawakubo designed that Met Shop in her black signature polka dots recast in a shade of The Met’s signature red.

As of Tuesday (May 2), The Met Store will have an exclusive retail assortment. The Met x CDG Pocket Shop will offer 11 exclusive Comme des Garçons products, including a new style of the iconic lace sweater from the Fall 1982 collection, a NikeLab Air Pegasus 83 for Comme des Garçons sneaker, three unisex exhibition T-shirts, a staff coat, two tote bags, a set of enamel pins and two wallets. Additional exclusive products will be added throughout the run of the show, which goes from May 4 through September 4.

To complement the exclusive product offering, The Met Store will offer more than 100 products from the Comme des Garcons Play, Parfum, Wallet and Converse lines that include personal accessories, men’s and women’s apparel, footwear and fragrance.

OUT OF HIDING: During Paris Fashion Week in March, Kawakubo made a rare public appearance to attend a press conference about the Met exhibition with her husband Adrian Joffe, CEO of Comme des Garçons.

Joelle Diderich wrote then in Women’s Wear Daily (WWD):

It is the institution’s first monographic show of a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

Joffe leaned over to whisper into her ear as she listened intently to a short presentation by Carrie Rebora Barratt, deputy director of the Metropolitan Museum, and 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,” said Barratt. “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.”

Describing the exhibition as “unlike anything we have ever done at the museum,” Barratt said it would feature a maze of geometric shapes dotted with 150 mannequins wearing Kawakubo’s designs from 1981 to the present. Julien d’Ys, who creates the hairstyles for CdG’s shows, is designing the headpieces for the exhibition.

Bolton described Kawakubo as the most important and influential designer of her era, comparable in stature to Saint Laurent in the early Eighties.

“Since her Paris debut in 1981, Rei has consistently defined and redefined the aesthetics of our time. Season after season, she changes our eye by upending received notions of conventional beauty and by disrupting the defining characteristics of the fashionable body,” he said.

The exhibition will examine Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitial space, with eight sections titled Fashion/Anti-fashion, Design/Not Design, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject and Clothes/Not Clothes.

Bolton made several references to Kawakubo’s famously elusive public persona, noting that the designer typically refuses to explain her collections, instead providing just a short title for each one.

“Unlike the titles many artists give their work, usually to clarify their meaning, those Rei gives seem to obfuscate meaning. At best, they serve as a code to be deciphered, at worst, they serve as a red herring, designed to divert, distract and ultimately, bewilder,” he noted.

The Fashion/Anti-fashion section of the exhibition will focus on CdG’s collections from the early Eighties, which shocked critics with their black color palette and outsize shapes. Model/Multiple will explore the concept of repetition with 34 skirts from the label’s Spring 2004 Abstract Excellence collection.

The Object/Subject will feature Kawakubo’s notorious Spring 1997 collection, Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body, of which two examples were displayed as part of an installation at the press conference venue, just off Place Vendôme, where Comme des Garçons has its Paris headquarters. The padded garments in stretch nylon caused a scandal when they were first shown.

“References to tumors and hunchbacks abounded in reviews of the collection, which critics christened Lumps and Bumps, a moniker that suggest a body that’s diseased, deformed and ultimately, monstrous,” said Bolton.

The final section, Clothes/Not Clothes, focuses on the Japanese designer’s last eight collections, in which the clothes have become entirely divorced from their utilitarian function to cross over into the realm of art.

“The garments featured in Clothes/Not Clothes share qualities with sculpture as well as conceptual and performance artworks,” Bolton remarked.

The Japanese designer behind the Comme des Garçons label and Dover Street Market specialty stores, Kawakubo is a fashion maverick who’s Paris fashion shows remain a highlight for the international retail and design community.

[The Spring/Summer 2017 Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe and Noir by Kei Ninomiya collections are now available at IF Boutique Dubai.]

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