Only the second living designer to be honored in a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, Rei Kawakubo, the force behind the iconic Comme des Garçons (CdG)—at once a vision of the interstitial and convention-defiant Luddite—is the subject of a thought-provoking exhibit that summons the primordial while celebrating the cycle of life.
A conceptual artist, Rei Kawakubo inspires a sweeping, often antithetical, emotional response. In our NetBase emotions analysis, the positive emotions incited by the Met’s Comme des Garçons exhibit range from anti-fashion, futuristic, defiant, secretive to spiritual, sculptural, liberating, empowering, protective.
Consensus among hard-core loyalists points to CdG’s artitistic intelligence and flawless design execution. Simply put, advocates relate to Kawakubo’s deeply human sensibility and ability to artfully render a fashion story that taps into certain psychological crevices triggered by world events. It isn’t about malaise, but rather a celebration of the human spirit and identifiable style that exudes a sense of armor-like empowerment for the wearer and observer alike.
Aptly named Art of the In-Between, the exhibit champions Kawakubo’s intuitive grasp of interstitiality and CdG’s inimitable craft in mining a cohesive design story.
The reaction of exhibit attendees is predictably impassioned. Widely popular in Japan and Europe, Kawakubo isn’t a mainstream designer in the U.S. market, despite CdG’s holy triumpherate of fashion status in Japan—alongside Issey Miyake and Yoji Yamamoto—where CdG’s sales volume is double that of her notable peers.
Lauded in social media, Art of the In-Between is predictably evocative and thought-provoking. It took 13 years for Andrew Bolton, curator of the Met’s Costume Institute, to convince Rei Kawakubo to agree to an exhibition solely devoted to her work. Bolton hopes that the show will help end the false distinction between art and fashion. Although, Kawakubo considers herself a businesswoman, rather than an artist.
The Met Gala and first few weeks of Art of the In-Between register no absence of social media passion, from the CdG devout “obsessed”emotion to the totally “underwhelmed” or the deplorable “monster” sentiment evoked by less than enamored exhibit attendees. It appears nominal maligning was reserved for long-time Kawakubo collaborator Julien d’Ys sculpted steel wool coiled headpieces.
While Kawakubo may be considered an intellectual artist-designer by many, one doesn’t really need to overthink her work to appreciate it, but rather simply accept that the mood and social references suggested by her creations to capture the moment’s CdG’s ethos and allow yourself to be fascinated by the ride—which I did during my foray to the exhibit.
Predictably, social media was afire as the Costume Institute kicked its new exhibition at the first Monday in May Met Gala, a red carpet event on a par with the Oscars.
Despite the event’s suggested dress code adherence to exhibit theme, most attendees played it safe in European couture gowns, according to Localspeak’s designer brand NetBase analysis of the May 1 event depicted in the chart below. Versace stole a third of the mentions, trailed by Chanel and Gucci capturing another third of brand share collectively, with 18% and 10%, respectively. Still, there were several notable CdG gowns worn by the fashion intrepid Rihanna and Caroline Kennedy, among others.
And what would an Anna Wintour meticulously curated event be without an analysis of the star power, revealed in the Met Gala’s people brand share breakdown chart below.
Whether your motivation in seeing the exhibit stems from artistic or fashion realization, Art of the In-Between will stun, entrance and bewilder you. Behold the emotions emojis analysis of the exhibit thus far revealing, above all, a sense of joy, love and confidence.
Bolton may not be too far from diminishing the myth that fashion isn’t art. Just listen to the exhibit attendees of the past 3 weeks.
Image from Rory Hyde