Art of The In-BetweenRei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons

Kawakubo’s work is imbued with the history of the past,
and looks towards the future

“I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” — Rei Kawakubo


Since 1970, the work of Japanese fashion designers has had a shaking impact on Western style. Embracing a love for restraint, subtle beauty and incomplete perfection, they have defined a vision that has offered a new and unique expression of creativity, and has transformed the established notions of status, display, and sexuality in contemporary fashion. It was within this vision that the work of Tokyo born Rei Kawakubo developed and flourished. When she began, Rei Kawakubo did not intend to start a revolution, she aimed only to show what she thought to be strong and beautiful. However, this simple and inner purpose immeasurably changed the greater fashion landscape. While working at a textiles factory in 1967, the designer became a freelance stylist, marking her entrance in the fashion industry. Only two years later she started making clothes under the label Comme Des Garçons, opening a Tokyo boutique in 1975 and adding a menswear line, Homme Comme des Garçons in 1978, before her Paris debut in the early 80’s.

A pure creative spirit, Rei never thought of following any system or abiding by any rules. She remained free, which positioned her at the forefront of the avant-garde. To celebrate the work of this timeless individual, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that The Costume Institute’s spring 2017 exhibition will be Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, on view from May 4th through September 4th, 2017. In anticipation of this exhibition, Rei Kawakubo will also serve as Honorary Chair at The Met Gala alongside such celebrities as Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is not a traditional retrospective. The thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent show in 1983. “Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture,” states Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. Presented in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, the retrospective will examine Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality and will feature approximately 120 examples of her womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from Kawakubo’s first Paris runway show in 1981, when she defined on the catwalk the “beauty of poverty” to her most recent collections. Shaped within and between entities—self/other, object/subject, fashion/anti-fashion—Kawakubo’s work is imbued with the history of the past, yet looks dynamically towards the future.