5 young designers on the influence of comme des garçons
This year’s Rei Kawakubo exhibit at the Met is deeply relevant for a new generation of talent.
rei kawakubo (japanese, born 1942) for comme des garçons (japanese, founded 1969); courtesy of comme des garçons. photograph by © paolo roversi
If you haven't had a chance to check out the Rei Kawakubo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it's about time you pay your respects. Truth be told, it may even be worth the museum's $25 suggested donation.
Since founding Comme des Garçons in 1961, Kawakubo has consistently disrupted conventional notions of beauty and reshaped our understanding of what fashion is and what it's supposed to do. Specifically, it doesn't always have to be conventionally beautiful or flattering. Like all great art, her work invites the viewer to think and rethink.
And though Kawakubo's career now spans over half a century, she continues to inspire young designers. Here's what a few of today's notable up-and-comers have to say about Rei Kawakubo and the legacy of Comme des Garçons:
Pierre Davis, principal of Los Angeles's nonbinary fashion institution NO SESSO, lauds Rei as a genius. Davis is particularly inspired by Kawakubo's deconstruction of garments, and her use of up-cycled materials. "Comme des Garçons is soft sculpture art and I'm obsessed. Rei's play on shape and where they are placed on the body is so beautiful, always so architectural and aesthetically pleasing. I'm influenced by Comme des Garçons because it's so playful, however a great protest on social norms. The deconstruction of garments and using recycled materials is always on point, and I'm constantly inspired."
Established in 2015, FIT graduate Joshua Homic's eponymous line Homic brings together references as disparate as Midwestern kitsch and fetishwear. It's essentially luxe power dressing but stitched with Homic's own queer community in mind. "Comme des Garçons's unwillingness to compromise is a perennial inspiration to me as I build my brand. Kawakubo has used her platform as a contemporary designer to push the boundaries, redefining sartorial norms. She has defied critics, courageously maintaining her creative integrity. Her fortitude has made me realize the importance of sticking to my ethos, and encouraged me to remember the importance of my own community when I'm designing."
Mexico-born Victor Barragán, whose brand Barragán is rife with 90s throwback vibes, identifies Rei as an early inspiration. "Comme des Garçons was one of the first brands that I started getting into when I was really young back in the day in Mexico City. [It] was really hard for me to find something in print about the brand and the internet was the best way to introduce me to her work…. Each collection speaks for itself and doesn't follow any normative rules about shape and the body."
Creatures of the Wind
New York label Creatures of the Wind was founded in 2008 by Shane Gabiers and Christopher Peters. Previously, Gabiers worked under Antwerp's Jurgi Persoons, while Peters was a studio assistant to Nick Cave. After those really cool jobs, the duo now designs really cool ready-to-wear. "Rei Kawakubo has sent a precedent that fashion can be whatever one wants it to be, and that there can be some level of commercial viability within even the most conceptual work. This has given us the confidence to explore very personal narratives and investigate complex starting points. Comme des Garçons has always stripped away conventions and proposed new ideas, and this sort of independent spirit is what we've always admired."
Raffaela Hanley of Lou Dallas, a designer whose work has been described as "sloppy couture," admires the playfulness and freedom in Comme des Garçons's designs. "Everything is re-imagined, some garments even emphasize traditionally undesirable forms. Rei makes them light and appealing. I love her Bump Collection. I think [they're] my favorite pieces I saw at the Met show. They are so unusual and make you think. I love that about Comme des Garcons: it's always stimulating."
"Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between" will run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 12.
Text Coco Romack
Photography via designers
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