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.
The exhibition concludes with two "objects for the body" from Kawakubo's most recent collection, The Future of Silhouette, made from what the designer describes as "non-fabrics," or non-woven, non-fashion materials. Here, white synthetic wadding recalls her earlier crinoline-like ensembles featured in Then/Now. While the shapes of those garments have their origins in the mid-19th century, however, the forms of these pieces — distorted, malformed hourglasses—have no historical or, for that matter, social or cultural referents. This links them to the eccentric, engorged creations from Body Meets Dress—Dress Meets Body, except that these works notably lack openings for the arms.
Despite the fact that these pieces bind the body physically, they unbind and liberate it culturally. Fashion, by its very nature, is defined by a society's idealized representation of the female form. These two "objects for the body," however, not only dismiss but also contest and subvert accepted canons. Early in her career, Kawakubo explained, "I work around the figure, but I am never limited by what the figure has to be." In her hands, the dressed body is freed from bounded notions of place, period, and purpose, fully occupying and expressing an "art of the in-between."