Spotlight On: “The Art of the In-Between”
Comme des Garçons at the MET

Comme des Garçons at the MET
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Comme des Garçons at the MET

If you haven’t heard of Rei Kawabuko, the elusive Japanese designer behind Comme des Garçons you may not be alone. The label has been commercially under-the-radar to those who aren’t in the fashion know, but for industry insiders it is known as one of the most innovative and inspirational brands in the fashion world.

Not only is she the second living designer honoured with a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, but it has been over three decades since anyone has been given this privilege. What’s the hype, you ask? Her clothes are not only raw works of art, unaffected by consumerism, but also she doesn’t care about creating clothes that are conventionally attractive. In her words:

“For something to be beautiful…it doesn’t have to be pretty.”

Critics might say her clothes aren’t wearable, but in a world of fast-fashion many consider her work some of the last remaining trend-free couture. Those who revere her work also love the fact that her company has remained in her ownership since its establishment in 1973; not a small feat for a company that has an annual turnover of $280 million. Her unique sense of fashion has attracted collaborations with the biggest players in the industry, including Nike, Levi’s, Louis Vuitton and Supreme. (Yet, despite working with some of the world’s most recognised brands, her work remains the star focus.)

Not only do her designs make a statement, but her business expansion has also followed suit. With her business partner and husband Adrian Joffe, Rei launched The Dover Street Market- London’s hands-down coolest store since 2004. Many of the designers carried in the store have been influenced by Rei, or are also uniquely contributing to the fashion world.

Rei’s deconstructed tailoring movement has influenced designers such as Victor & Rolf, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and Helmut Lang, and her protégés include some of the finest Japanese designers today. Junya Watanabe and Chitose Abe, both who worked directly under Rei developed the label “Sacai”- one of my all-time favourites.

Rei maintains a reputation as an extremely private person; she is famously media-shy and introverted. I’m truly fascinated by this- being an introvert in a world that celebrates extraverted personalities can often make it difficult to succeed. She even remained hidden at her own MET gala party, managing to stay out of all but one photo at arguably the most photographed event of the year. This allows her work to speak for herself (or others to speak for it- we know that Taylor Tomasi-Hill of Forty Five Ten is a huge fan).

The exhibition has just closed its doors, but if you missed it this time around you may get lucky and see it elsewhere. Rumours have it that Rei is open to discussions on moving the show to other locations, TBC. In the meantime, check out our gallery!


Emesha Nagy

Designer, creative director and consultant. With over a decade of experience in the fashion industry, she wants to share her love for fashion, contemporary art, and thoughtful discussion on fashion and retail industries.

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