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.
Elite Culture/Popular Culture
Good Taste/Bad Taste
High/Low examines the ambiguous relationship between elite and popular culture—another modernist preoccupation—through Kawakubo's collection Motorbike Ballerina. The ensembles combine tutus and leather jackets in an attempt to reconcile the "high" culture of ballet with the "low" subculture of bikers or "greasers." Kawakubo described the collection as "Harley-Davidson loves Margot Fonteyn," a reference to the American motorcycle manufacturer and the British prima ballerina.
The aesthetic language of street style has long fascinated Kawakubo. She often deploys it in parodic explorations of taste, as in the collection Bad Taste, which incorporates punk and fetish styles. Using textiles thought to be cheap, kitschy, and vulgar, such as nylon and polyester, the designer upends received notions of good taste and exposes inherent prejudices and bourgeois posturings in the precincts of elite culture.