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.
Kawakubo's experiments with "in-betweenness" relate to the unfolding of modernism as an ongoing project. This idea is explored in Then/Now, which focuses on the designer's relationship to time through the collections Modern Sweetness, Sweeter Than Sweet, Body Meets Dress—Dress Meets Body, Inside Decoration, and White Drama. Over the course of her career, Kawakubo has plumbed fashion history for inspiration. She has an affinity for the overblown silhouettes of the 19th century, achieved through bustles and crinolines. In her hands, however, the silhouettes are so radically and profoundly reconfigured as to eradicate history.
Kawakubo's fashions impose an intense immediacy, stridently emphasizing the here and now. She brings into doubt both the logic of temporal continuity and the presumptive rhythm of life—birth, marriage, death—as seen in the Broken Bride, White Drama, and Ceremony of Separation collections. These fashions advocate a level of personal freedom that can only be attained in the intervals between a society's life-stage traditions, thus subverting the ideologies encoded in the birth-marriage-death continuum.