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.

Design/Not Design explores Kawakubo's intuitive approach to garment making. Having received no formal fashion training, Kawakubo pursues spontaneous and experimental techniques and methods of construction. Usually, her creative process begins with a single word or an abstract image conveyed to her patternmakers. She once presented a crumpled piece of paper to her team and requested a pattern that expressed similar qualities—as seen in a dress of brown paper shaped and twisted around the body from her collection The Future of Silhouette.

The ensembles in this section highlight strategies that recur in Kawakubo's collections—fusion, imbalance, the unfinished, elimination, and design without design. These modes of expression, all rooted in a Zen Buddhist aesthetic principle known as wabi-sabi, converge in an outfit of ripped and patchworked white cotton jersey from her collection Patchworks and X; a dress with 15 layers of rawedged, unbleached cotton from Clustering Beauty; ensembles of flattened, layered, and stitched cotton canvas toiles from Crush; and garments featuring exposed and reconfigured pattern pieces from Adult Punk, Fusion, and Adult Delinquent.


  • Title: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between
  • Creator: Rei Kawakubo
  • Fashion House: Comme des Garçons
  • Date Created: 2017/2017
  • Rights: © 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • External Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Designer: Rei Kawakubo
  • Culture: Japanese
  • Credit Line: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York This exhibition was made possible in part by Condé Nast.
  • Creator Birth Date: 1942

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