Rei Kawakubo’s avant-garde aesthetic is a force of nature that lends her clothes a timeless yet forward-thinking appeal. At a period when glamour was defined by the highly stylised and excessive, the Japanese fashion designer proposed a controversial counternarrative in the early 1980s that questioned the established fashion system. Deconstruction became Kawakubo’s defining signature, challenging Western ideals of beauty such as proportion and symmetry, which were starting to fall out of favour on the catwalk. Kawakubo’s penchant for uncompromising silhouettes produced shows such as her SS97 collection, where dresses appeared normal when viewed from the front, yet radically different at the back, with large, voluminous protrusions. Clothes were treated like sculptures, ones that bulged and morphed in a fluid manner.
As a result of her revolutionary approach to fashion, Kawakubo’s intellectual shows left her audience begging for more. With the success of Comme des Garçons and her diffusion lines, Kawakubo’s companies sell her clothes through more than 130 stores worldwide, and the conceptual designer’s approach to retail has been as radical as her approach to design. As one of the pioneers of guerrilla pop-ups, the designer also conceived the Dover Street Market multi-designer boutiques in London, Tokyo, New York and Beijing (find out more about the Top 5 Most Important Fashion Capitals and Upcoming Fashion Capitals). After months of speculation, a solo retrospective of Kawakubo’s work has been confirmed for next year at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Set to rival the scale of its 2011 Alexander McQueen exhibition, it is without doubt the most anticipated fashion event of 2017. As with Kawakubo’s collections, the exhibition isn’t likely to be forgotten.
If you like living a life on the edgy side, check out our Opera Couture article for more avant-garde fashion.