Rei Kawakubo, renowned Japanese fashion designer, has revolutionized fashion and art with her extravagant creations. Kawakubo began the brand Comme des Garçon, which translated means “like some boys”, as a women’s fashion brand. Back then and even now, Kawakubo stunned the world with her avant-garde designs. Clothes that seemed unfit for the human form and clothes that had a personality of their own. Kawakubo has been known to push beyond all limitations, not only in the fashion world, but even beyond into the extraterrestrial terrain. Viewing her designs, beauty is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. With strange cuts, fabrics, and shapes all jumbled together, it’s extraordinary to ponder on how Kawakubo was able to put together aspects that are seemingly random, into a true masterpiece. Her pieces embody the part of the mind past the average imagination, as she describes “I like to work with space and emptiness.” Ironically, her pieces are immersed with richness and abstractness. Kawakubo confounds the world with each piece, as those viewing her work are compelled to an amazement that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
Kawakubo’s rebellious and artistic creations has allowed her to become the second living artist honored with a solo exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This exhibit running from May 4th to September 4th is entitled “Rei Kawakubo / Comme Des Garçons / Art of the In-Between.” Kawakubo’s work dating from the 1980s to present day is displayed in this exhibit. The pieces are organized by nine categories of aesthetic expressions: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. By using fabrics and the conventional concept of clothes to symbolize such intangible concepts, Kawakubo continuously proves herself to be a mastermind. The transformation that occurs to the visitor once stepping into the exhibit is drastic. With the curved white architecture contrasted against the odd wigs and colored and patterned drapes of fabrics, it seems that visitors have entered the in-between of a dystopian and utopian universe. Kawakubo has once compared her work to the concept of Zen Koans, which are riddles to baffle, bemuse, and bewilder. As described by Andrew Bolton, the curator of this exhibit, the koan mu and ma jointly embody her work. Koan mu represents emptiness and ma represents space, together creating a vagueness with room left only for interpretation.
Through the nine dichotomies of Kawakubo’s exhibition, she explores the mind of each viewer, sparking experimental thinking and transferring her innovation, beginning from the eyes, into each the mind of each witness of her work. Kawakubo is more than just a fashion designer. She’s a philosopher and an artist who transcends conventional standards of society in order to form her own. Not obliged to follow trends and serve the consumer, Kawakubo has built herself a legacy unprecedented by anyone.