Exploring Rei’s world ahead of the 2017 Met Gala.
Year on year, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art serves up exciting explorations of some of fashion’s biggest talking points, from the evolution of technology within textiles, to ‘China Through The Looking Glass’ (2015’s exhibition theme).
For its Spring 2017 showcase, the Met will explore the work of the iconic Japanese fashion designer, Rei Kawakubo and her label, Comme des Garçons in Rei Kawabuko / Comme des Garçons: Art of the in-Between; it is the first time in three decades that the Met has exhibited the work of a living designer (the last being Yves Saint Laurent in 1983), so understandably, it’s a pretty big deal.
Adding to the excitement, Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons, who are synonymous with avent garde designs and high-drama runway creations, will be the point of focus for this year’s corresponding Met Gala. Descended upon by the likes of Kim and Kanye, Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and a host of likewise sartorially inclined celebs, there’s no guesses as to why it’s the hottest ticket in town.
Ahead of tonight’s party – and the exhibition’s launch on Thursday – we take a look back at some Kawabuko highlights.
Beginning life in London’s Mayfair, Dover Street Market was launched by Kawakubo and her husband, Adrian Joffe in 2004, first on Dover Street, moving to Haymarket in 2016.
Seeking to revolutionise the shopping experience by offering up a creative space with a unique visual aesthetic, DSM originally stocked solely the brand curated by its founder, Comme des Garçons. However as interest in the space increased, the designer added a broader (handpicked) selection of designers such as Rick Owens and Chalayan to the mix; Vetements, Gucci and Molly Goddard have all since joined the line-up. Meanwhile locations in Singapore, New York, Beijing and Ginza have since been added to the portfolio.
In recent years, DSM has also launched an online store (naturally), allowing fashion lovers and cultures seekers to source their favourite runway looks 24/7. The website also highlights the stores latest pop-up’s and installations.
You’ve probably seen someone wearing Comme des Garcons’s Play label without even realising it. The staple heart-with-eyes logo dominates the internet, constantly cropping up on Insta and being worn by all your fave social media star crushes. It’s still as relevant as ever, despite it being 15 years since the label launched.
The ready-to-wear collection features long and short sleeve tees in their simplest form, branded solely with the iconic Play logo and frequently boasting Breton stripes. The collection juxtaposes what we’re used to from Comme, acting as an affordable, low-key solution to the usually high-fashion extroverted collections, elsewhere synonymous with the brand.
Ever seeking to develop the range, Play recently collaborated with Converse for a unique collection of footwear.
Rei and Comme des Garçons pushed the conventions of fashion with their Spring ’97 collection. A commentary on female body image, Rei infused padding at random places in the garments, making models (including Jodie Kidd and Amy Wesson) seem as though they had lumps and bumps in the strangest of places.
Aptly named Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body, the collection sparked conversation about female body image and was much discussed amongst the fashion industry. It remains one of Rei’s most seminal seasons, and continues to be much discussed amongst the respective crowds.
With an entirely monochrome colour palette, Rei’s debut collection at Paris Fashion Week circa 1982 caused uproar. Models wearing ripped, shape-less garments with minimal make-up and hair styling stormed down the runway, causing anarchy amongst fashion-obsessed spectators who were used to the opulent and conformist designs that Paris Fashion Week had become accustomed to.
The figure-concealing collection also paid homage to the English translation of Comme Des Garçons, which means “like the boys.”
Art meets Fashion (Campaigns)
The lines between art and fashion are often blurred, and Comme des Garçons ensures that it pushes the boundaries of fashion and art when it comes to its ad campaigns. Previous fashion imagery has seen the house use the iconic Sisters by Jim Britt for AW88, an inflight bird for its AW97 campaign, and Cindy Sherman for AW93 (a firm fave at Wonderland HQ).
Witchcraft is a recurring theme in Kawakubo’s work. For Autumn Winter 2004, she presented Dark Romance, Witch, which saw models storming down the runway looking like deadly brides to the sound of atmospheric organ music.
Ten years later, Rei revisited the motif for her SS16 line-up, where she presented the Blue Witch collection. Donning black lipstick, huge billowing blue dresses and statement red wigs; the accompanying soundtrack was inspired by David Lynch’s cult Blue Velvet.
“Witches. These are strong women that are often misunderstood by the world,” Adrian Joffe, Comme des Garçons’s CEO has previously explained of the brand’s exploration of witchcraft.
Supreme x Comme Des Garçons
One of our favourite fashion collabs, Supreme and Comme des Garçons’s first hook up came about in 2012. The pair then united every spring between 2012-2014, and the collaboration will make a comeback this spring with a Comme des Garçons SHIRT collaboration, again marrying Comme des Garcons’s steadfast creativity with Supreme’s simple, commercial iconicity.
This isn’t the only collaboration that Comme des Garçons has worked on, far from it. Back in 2008 for example, the brand shook hands with H&M as part of the Swedish chain’s long term designer rollout, a similarly celebrated meeting of minds, if you will.