Comme des Garçons’ Kawakubo and Clothes as Art

When Rei Kawakubo first opened a store in Tokyo’s Roponggi district, one of its more notable features was its emptiness. All of the clothes were hidden.

Since then, the founder of clothing label Comme des Garçons (French for “like some boys”) has pushed the boundaries of what is fashionable, sane, and beautiful. In 1982, she came up with a collection of hole-riddled sweaters and knits. Twenty years later, she launched a collection of exaggeratedly oversized clothes splashed with camouflage, leopard, and floral prints.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute has become the latest runway to showcase her eccentric pieces with the exhibit, “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” which will run until September 4.

Featuring 140 clothes from the past 30 years, the New York show can be found in what curator Andrew Bolton described as a “maze-like playground.”


18th-Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17. Courtesy of Comme des Garçons and the Met. Photograph by Paolo Roversi


Inside Decoration, autumn/winter 2010–11; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons and the Met. Photograph by Craig McDean

It is divided into nine themes that have inspired Kawakubo’s work: “Absence/Presence,” “Design/Not Design,” “Fashion/Anti-Fashion,” “Model/Multiple,” “High/Low,” “Then/Now,” “Self/Other,” “Object/Subject,” and “Clothes/Not Clothes.”


“Absence/Presence.” Photo courtesy of the Met.


“Self/Other” and “East/West.” Photo courtesy of the Met.


“Clothes/Not Clothes.” Photo courtesy of the Met.

Says Bolton of the 74-year-old Japanese designer, “She forces you to rethink notions of beauty, notions of the body, notions of fashion, notions of wearability.”

The exhibition guide can be downloaded from this link.


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