“I don’t like to explain the clothes,” Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo has famously said of her work, which is currently on show at New York’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. “The clothes are just as you see them and feel them.”
With that in mind, the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between,” the Costume Institute’s annual blockbuster exhibition, which was curated by Andrew Bolton, has been a long time in the making. The 74-year old Japanese design icon has not been keen to present her work in this manner. However, as reported by the AP, “Kawakubo approached [Bolton] 18 months ago saying she was ready for a show.” She had so very strict rules, however. One of them: She was “resolutely opposed to a retrospective. She hates focusing on the past, because she has moved on.”
“She finds it physically painful to look at her work. So, that took months of negotiation,” Bolton said.
Kawakubo, the AP states, “actually wanted to focus exclusively on the last few years of designs — following her second ‘rupture’ in 2014, when she said she was no longer making ‘clothing’ in the sense of wearable garments. (Her first rupture, in 1979, is known as the moment she decided to ditch her early, folklore-inflected designs and “start from zero.”)”
“This was where her mind was at,” Bolton said. He managed to convince her to include a larger array of her works in one of the Costume Institute’s few-ever exhibitions that focus exclusively on the work of one single living designer. The last one came in 1983 and featured the work of the then still living Yves Saint Laurent.
As for why Bolton and co. felt it necessary to break with routine – including recent exhibitions of deceased greats, such as Alexander McQueen, Charles James, Schiaparelli, and Paul Poiret – the logic is simple: “She summarizes the last 50 years of fashion. She’s that important.”