Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jill Krementz covers Rei Kawakubo at the Met

The entrance to the Met, all gussied up for The Met Gala.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between
The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 4-September 4, 2017

Rei Kawakubo, the 74-year-old legendary designer wearing her signature black leather motorcycle jacket with Met Curator Andrew Bolton.
It's May again and that means a new exhibition at the Met's Costume Institute. Curated by Andrew Bolton, this year's show is devoted to the work of the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo.

The display of approximately 140 designs, dating from Kawakubo's first Paris runway show, in 1981, to her most recent creations, is organized thematically — based on dualities such as male/female, past/present, and East/West — rather than chronologically.

The press preview was on Monday, the first of May, the morning leading up to the annual Gala hosted by Vogue magazine's Anna Wintour. The event is The Costume Institute's main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

On hand to welcome the huge contingent of local and foreign press were Andrew Bolton, Anna Wintour, Tom Campbell (the outgoing CEO of the Met), Caroline Kennedy (former United States Ambassador to Japan) and the reclusive Rei Kawakubo.
Entrance to the exhibition on the Second Floor of the Museum.

The exhibition features approximately 140 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection. Objects are organized into nine dominant and recurring aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo's work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/ Not Clothes.
Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who collaborated on the exhibition design with Rei Kawakubo.

"It's exactly a year ago today that Rei and I first met to discuss the possibility of an exhibition at The Met. Initially, both of us were a little apprehensive. For Rei, the show was to mark her first official monographic exhibition, while for the museum it was to mark only its second of a living designer. The first was Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. I think it's fair to say that Rei's anxieties ran a little deeper than mine. For me, there was no question that Rei's fashions belonged in an art museum. The history of fashion has yielded only a handful of designers who are not only masters of their métier, but who have also defined and redefined the aesthetics of their time. Rei is one of them."

The Exhibition Hall, on the second floor, has been transformed into an open, brightly lit white box with geometric structures. Intended to be a holistic, immersive experience, the space facilitates engagement with the fashions on display. A suggested pathway begins with four red ensembles (three shown here) enclosed in a cylinder, reflecting Kawakubo's enduring interest in blurring the boundaries between body and dress.
Two of the cylinders have "upper levels" so make sure to look up once in a while. This is part of the Fashion/Not Design.

Front and back view of Elite Culture/Popular Culture.

Good Taste/Bad Taste.
Several of the fashions are displayed in a free-standing form on platforms. This one: East/West.
Male/Female. Self/Other.
Suzy Menkes is a British journalist and fashion critic. Formerly the fashion editor for the International Herald Tribune, Menkes is now International Editor for 19 international editions of Vogue. That's Andrew in the background. Pierpaolo Piccioli with Grace Coddington. Monsieur Piccioli is a designer for Valentino — a sponsor of the exhibition. Ms. Coddington, the Creative Director at American Vogue for nearly 30 years, recently launched her new fragrance.


Yasuhiro Watanabe dressed "from head to toe" in Rei Kawakubo.

“I’ve been working as press manager for Dover Street Market Ginza, the concept store which Rei has created under the theme of ‘Beautiful Chaos’.”
Close up of head dresses.
War/Peace and a member of the International Press Corps.
I love all of the whimsical heads.
Rushka Bergman is a contributor and fashion Editor of Vogue Italia. She is wearing Comme de Garcons "from two seasons ago." Cathy Ryan from The New York Times.
Life/Loss. Horace Brockington, Editor of the Journal of Visual Culture.
Clothes/Not Clothes.
Clothes/Not Clothes.
Irene Ojo, editor of Models.com, wearing a Stella Jean dress and No. 21 shoes.
Katharine Zarrella wearing Comme de Garcons (you had to ask)? She is Editor-in-Chief of Fashion Unfiltered, a web magazine.

A look at one of the many ensembles enclosed in a cylinder. The exhibition space was designed by Ms. Kawakubo who, working in a warehouse in Tokyo, provided a detailed prototype of the floor plan.

Yumiko Sakuma and Akari Endo-Gaut who write for Ginza and Tomorrow, popular Japanese fashion magazines.
Bunny Lampert wearing vintage petticoat, shoes and jacket. Her shirt is Comme des Garcons.
Bunny with her vintage Christian LeCroix glasses.
Daniel Cheung, 22, web editor for One Media Group Limited. His jacket is from a second-hand store, the shirt and white boots: Comme des Garcons; the black watch is Apple, the red Balenciaga.
When you have to keep track of two time zones.

Andrew being interviewed by ¡HOLA! TV.
At 11 AM the members of the press convened in the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court for coffee and croissants and to hear remarks from Tom Campbell, Andrew Bolton and Caroline Kennedy.
Vogue's Hamish Bowles. Nancy Chilton, the Chief Communications Officer for The Costume Institute. She is wearing Proenza Schouler.
The Met's Carrie Barratt welcoming Julien d'Ys (who created and styled the exhibition's heads & wigs) and Grace Coddington.
Tom Campbell, The Met's CEO, Anna Wintour, and Andrew Bolton in the front row before making their remarks.

Ms. Wintour is wearing Alexander McQueen.
Perfect haircuts.

And of course that is a Thom Browne signature whatever peeking out from Mr. Bolton's jacket.
Thom Browne and Gucci shoes across the aisle from me.

"Rei's vision is universal. But having spent the past three years in Japan, I think there is something about the uncompromising originality of her work, her commitment to excellence, her attention to detail, and the closeness of her team that embody the sensibility of Japan. Celebrating playfulness within a rigid formality is one of the great Japanese feats and Rei does it better than anyone.

"On the streets of Tokyo, and the smaller cities of Japan, you can tell when you are getting close to a Comme des Garcons store. People are walking the streets in her image, wearing amazing clothes, transcending rules, inspired by the freedom she has given them to explore what is new. Whenever my children came to town, and wanted to see what was happening -- and what would happen next -- that's where they wanted to go. Her work is beautiful, it transcends age and gender, it reconnects us with silence, it makes us look more carefully at the things we take for granted. In today's world where we each need to figure out what we believe in and how to stand for something, this exhibition has a lot to teach us."
Adrian Joffe (Rei Kawakubo's husband and president of Comme des Garçons), Rei Kawakubo, Caroline Kennedy, Tom Campbell, and Anna Wintour.

I would like to take a moment here to say that this will be the last press event I'll cover at the Met with Mr. Campbell at the helm of this great museum. It has been a huge pleasure to work with Tom during his tenure and I will miss him more than I can say.

Anna looking glam.
Anna Wintour, Rei Kawakuba, and Andrew Bolton after the press conference.
Fashion Designer Thom Browne, who is also Andrew's long time partner. Paula Deitz, editor of The Hudson Review, wearing a Japanese scarf from Nuno — a store she describes as "for real Japanese insiders."
Hamish Bowles and Anna (giggling) as they leave the Museum.

A quick cup of coffee for Andrew before he scurries off for more interviews.
Eugenia Santella is the Associate Communications Director for the Costume Institute.
Aurora Loyola, Fashion Editor for Harper's Bazaar, Mexico. Ivan Shaw is Corporate Photography Director Condé Nast Editions.
Copies of the exhibition catalogue ($50) by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, on display in the store. Designed by Fabien Baron, it showcases more than 120 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear along with quotes from her about her creative process and aesthetic.
Leaving the Met with the white canopy erected for the evening's red carpet arrivals.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.