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.
Form/Function features Not Making Clothing, the first collection Kawakubo produced in response to her aspiration to design "objects for the body." The title is a statement of intent, a declaration of her determination to favor pure form. In terms of process, she sought to abandon her previous design experience and create from the viewpoint of a naive child or untrained artist. She explained, "I wished there was a new psychedelic drug that allowed me to see the world differently, through the eyes of an outsider."
These designs break with traditional fashions in their relationship to the human figure. Abstract shapes and three-dimensional structures stand apart from the body, and eccentric silhouettes and exaggerated proportions—reminiscent of doll clothing—threaten to obscure and overwhelm the figure. While there is a definite fissure between Not Making Clothing and her preceding work, there are notable aesthetic, technical, and thematic similarities, as is apparent from the ensemble from her 2009 collection Tomorrow's Black. In addition to the color black, it has a similar body-obscuring silhouette, achieved through the piecing together of irregular and outsize pattern pieces.