Rei Kawakubo’s Met Exhibition

- The designer that blends art and fashion with business -

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the three greatest museums of the world, has debuted the “Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” exhibition. The Costume Institute which unveils a newly themed exhibition every May has grown its reputation throughout the years, with last year’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” ranking as the seventh most visited exhibitions of the Museum, and the 2015 “China: Through the Looking Glass” ranking in as the fifth. This year’s show is the first monograph exhibition at the Met to focus on a living designer since its Yves Saint Laurent exhibit in 1983, and the first to feature a Japanese designer. The exhibition attracted a long line before the press event and gained media attention before the opening.

The exhibition is organized in booths with contradicting themes: Absence / Presence, Design / Not Design, Fashion / Antifashion, Model / Multiple, High / Low, Then / Now, Self / Other, Object / Subject and Clothes / Not Clothes. It features approximately 140 of Kawakubo's designs from her first Paris show in the early 1980s to her most recent 2017 A/W collection.

The exhibition venue, also designed by Kawakubo herself in coordination with the Museum, is created with straight and curving lines on plain white walls. The ceilings covered with fluorescent lights are a departure from the spotlights normally seen in museums, and create a bright, futuristic setting very different from the historic Met.

The recent work of Kawakubo, a designer who has pursued the possibilities of fashion since her debut over 40 years ago, has gradually become a form of art. Many of the ‘clothes’ that are on display are truly sublime not when worn, but as powerful creations like magnificent sculptures. The show is also a rare opportunity to view the designer’s runway pieces up-close.

Kawakubo is a talented creator with a business-like mind, which can be noticed when in her pop-up shop inside the Museum store. The shop sells popular items such as small leather goods, as well as exclusive graphic T-shirts featuring both The Met and Comme des Garçons logos and a reprinted edition sweater in a design from the 80’s on display in the exhibition. After experiencing the real essence or the story of a brand through an exhibition, the desire to purchase is natural and maximizing this opportunity is only appropriate. With fashion consumption dropping in recent years, this exhibition provides some valid reminders for the fashion business.

Photo Credit:

Gallery View, Title Wall
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, (from left) Bound/Unbound, Order/Chaos
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Then/Now
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Object/Subject
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art