Gallery views of The Costume Institute's spring 2017 exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, curated by Andrew Bolton.
The Costume Institute's spring 2017 exhibition examines the work of Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, known for her avant-garde designs and ability to challenge conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and fashionability. The thematic show features approximately 140 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear for Comme des Garçons dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection.
While Kawakubo has been described as an "intellectual" designer, she insists that her work deals with her "feelings, instincts, doubts, and fears." Her collections contain deeply personal and self-reflective narratives imbued with intense emotions and profound spirituality. These expressive dimensions are explored in Life/Loss, which elaborates on the themes of transition and temporality examined in Then/Now, extending them through the concepts of memory and memorialization.
It focuses on the collection Ceremony of Separation, whose title refers to the ways in which "the beauty and power of ceremony can alleviate the pain of separating, for the one departing as well as for the one saying goodbye." Tinged with sadness and despair, the garments—with their majestic and monumental silhouettes—can be interpreted as ponderous expressions of mourning dress. Rendered in delicate black, white, and gold lace, they represent a poignant meditation on the fragility of life and the finality of death. Several ensembles are composed of wrapped bundles, reminiscent of the earlier collection Square, in which every garment is constructed from a single piece of square fabric. Like their "not clothes" descendants, these precursors represent meditations on ritualistic practice, in this case the tradition of pilgrimage.