WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Rei Kawakubo
In case you haven't seen or heard about Kendall Jenner's barely-there thong or Bella Hadid's catsuit, the Met Gala Ball was held in New York this past Monday night. The fundraising gala is held each year to benifit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City. Each year the event honors that year's Costume Institute exhibition which the theme for the gala is inspired by. This year's honoree was the ever innovative Rei Kawakubo and her Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between collection.
This is huge deal not only because because Kawakubo will be featured in the museum, but because she is the first living designer since Yves Saint Laurent was featured in 1983 as the sole exhibit. Because of Kawaubo's ability and desire to constantly question what is and is not fashion and challenge the entire industry, she absolutely made her name in fashion history.
Born in Tokyo in 1942, Rei Kawakubo was the oldest of three sibilings and the only girl. Her father was an admistrator at the prestigious Keio University where she would go on to study literature and fine arts. Though never being professionally trained in fashion design, she graduated the university in 1964 with a degree in The History of Aesthetics. She first worked in advertising for a textile company before becoming a freelance stylist. Soon after, she began designing under her label Comme des Garçons and in 1973 she had the label incorporated.
By 1975, Kawakubo opened her first boutique in Tokyo and featured women's clothing before incorporating a men's collection as well two years later. She made her Western debut in 1982 with a boutique in Paris and showing her lines in Paris each season thereafter. After the first decade, she noted that she was disappointed with some of her very early work and decided to start from scratch, questioning what fashion and even clothing really was and began to work to create things that have never been made before.
Early on, Kawakubo's collections had a lot of black, grey, and white but have since expanded to include many more colors. Other than experimenting with color, Kawakubo is especially known for challenging the shape, texture, and material of her garments, notably in her spring/summer 1997 collection, "Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body," The collection really transformed what we consider a traditional silhouette by having a stretchy, skin-tight dress over ballooning pads, creating wonderfully bizarre humps, curves, and swelling.
Like any artist that challenges society and even art itself, Rei Kawakubo had to endure the disapproval for her visions of beauty, shape, textile, and form before reaching the success that she has today. At a time when women's powersuits were ruling the runway and boutiques, Kawakubo was already far ahead of her time with her bizarre, beautiful, bumpy, thought-provoking and industry-challenging pieces of art.