Rei Kawakubo, originally an artist from Tokyo, grew up in a household that enjoyed Western culture as an aesthetic, on the grounds of Keio University where her father worked. It was a fertile upbringing, blending art styles from around the world. In the 60s, when Kawakubo attended Keio, that blend was popular worldwide.
Kawakubo established her first fashion line in 1969, and made it a company four years later. Comme des Garçons, French for “like some boys,” began in Tokyo and expanded with meteoric speed. By the time she opened a boutique in Paris in ’82, Comme des Garçons had more than 150 shops, reporting profits upwards of $30 million.
And all of this on the back of Kawakubo’s striking, trendsetting visuals. Her clothes were dark, frayed, and asymmetrical, earning her followers the nickname of “The Crows.”
That aesthetic sense is a part of what is being featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this summer. Hosted by the Met’s Costume Institute, 140 pieces of Kawakubo’s fashion art will be featured in a themed show. The works are sorted into nine “aesthetic expressions of interstitiality,” according to the Met’s website. Alongside her “crow” garments are incredible architectures of color and texture.
“Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes,” are the nine categories. Since all featured works are runway pieces, rather than part of Kawakubo’s wearable fashion line, it could be argued that they all lie on the “Not Clothes” side of that particular dichotomy. Many of them are massive, dwarfing models or mannequins, especially while accompanied by the wigs designed for this display by Julien d’Ys.
This exhibition, which will be on view at the Met Fifth Avenue in their Gallery 999 space until September 4th, 2017, is free with admission to the museum. It’s made possible by sponsorship from Cond Nast and other sponsors.