NEW YORK (AP) — If you're someone who likes a lot of guidance and explanation at the museum, you might want to dramatically recalibrate your expectations before heading into Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Arriving in a brilliant white space containing a series of geometric structures, you'll find no one pointing you in the right direction, and no explanatory text next to the garments. Andrew Bolton, star curator of this and other blockbuster Met fashion exhibits, has provided paper brochures with maps and context, though he cheerfully welcomes you to ditch them. Showing a reporter around the exhibit a few days before opening, Bolton noted that although Kawakubo approached him 18 months ago saying she was ready for a show, she was resolutely opposed to a retrospective. Fans of "Comme," as fashion-lovers call it, would have been "screaming in my ears," Bolton added, if he hadn't included collections like "Broken Bride," where Kawakubo explored the concept of marriage, and "Ballerina Motorbike," in which she juxtaposed the very feminine — a filmy pink tutu — with the tough, muscular look of a black motorcycle jacket. Kawakubo 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. [...] pointing to a post-2014 version: "Now you see the priority of form over function." Garments in gingham-like fabric are stretched over bizarre protrusions on the body, coming out from the stomach or the back or the hip. - From SFGate
That's because for Kawakubo, the revered Japanese designer who's been reinventing her clothes for nearly a half-century — to the point that she no longer calls them clothes, but "objects for the body" — there is no right answer.
Pointing out a 2009 dress, he noted: "This still has arms, still has legs, still has openings." Then, pointing to a post-2014 version: "Now you see the priority of form over function." An example of her later work is three jackets, fused into one — with two of the jackets forming sleeves of the central jacket.
It is rare that the Costume Institute focuses on a single living designer — the last was Yves Saint Laurent in 1983.
"Her influence is enormous — especially on the vocabulary of fashion that we now take for granted, like asymmetry, like the unfinished, like black as a fashionable color." The exhibit, which launches with the glittery Met gala Monday night, is divided into nine themes, all of them dualities in Kawakubo's work: Fashion/Anti-Fashion, High/Low, Design/Not Design, and Clothes/Not Clothes are a few.
Passing by one display, Bolton notes that the collection is one of Kawakubo's favorites — and then stops himself.