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.
When Kawakubo established Comme des Garçons in 1973, her sole purpose was personal autonomy. "Independence has always been of greatest importance to me," she has stated. Like the search for "newness," the pursuit of freedom—freedom from convention and freedom of expression—is a defining attribute of her fashions. This quest has fueled her ongoing interest in street style, particularly punk: "I've always liked the [punk] spirit in the sense that it's against the run of the mill, the normal way of doing things. . . . Punk is against flattery."
Kawakubo also has a deep respect for history, however, and the dynamic between tradition and transgression is examined in Order/Chaos through her collection 18th-Century Punk. The clothes conflate the pneumatic structures and hyperbolic silhouettes of the 1700s with the leitmotifs of 1970s punk, including fetishistic hardware, harnesses, fastenings, and materials such as plastic in Pepto-Bismol pink. Their anachronistic employment of multicolored floral jacquards (not available until the 1800s), often pieced and collaged together, recalls an earlier punk-inspired collection, Adult Delinquent. At the time of its making, Kawakubo declared, "I am an adult delinquent to the end."