the met spent over a decade convincing rei kawakubo to do an exhibition
The brains behind Comme des Garçons wasn’t interested in a retrospective, she’s more concerned with what’s next.
Since it was announced last year, the Met's exhibition Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between has dominated the thoughts of fashion fans all over the world. As soon as the 2017 theme broke, people asked what took them so long? The public were hungry for a celebration of the Japanese legend and her legacy through Comme Des Garçons — the show is already breaking records for press attendance.
As it turns out, curator Andrew Bolton has been trying to convince Kawakubo to be the subject of a show for 13 years. Speaking to Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe and fashion journalist Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times-hosted Times Talks, Bolton revealed he first floated the idea with her when they met in 2003. She wasn't interested, but he wasn't deterred, and continued to bring up the possibility every time he saw her across the decade, promising he was ready when she was.
Kawakubo insisted her work wasn't about dwelling on the past, but rather looking to the future. Joffe explained in the talk: "She's always trying to start from zero. But by definition, looking back means there's baggage...She was always saying the person that did those things in the '80s and '90s is not the person she is now."
But in 2016 Bolton finally got his wish and she agreed. The only problem was the museum schedule is usually laid out seasons in advance, and the legend wasn't willing to give that much notice. As Joffe continued, "When Rei wants to do something, she wants to do it right now." Bolton had an ultimatum, do it in the next year or lose the chance forever. Spoiler alert: it all worked out, obviously. They decided to temper Kawakubo's concerns by not positioning the exhibit as a linear retrospective. And the rest, as they say, is very well attended history.
Text Wendy Syfret
Portrait Leonard Koren