University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion Education"

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons:

Art of the In-Between  

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Is fashion art? This has always been a debate among the creative crowd, but a walk through this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2017 exhibit, the answer is clear.  The exhibition focuses on the avant-garde works of Rei Kawakubo, the reclusive founder and designer behind the cult label Comme des Garçons. The fashion forward exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, is on view from May 4 through September 4, 2017.

The show examines Kawakubo’s obsession with the space between boundaries. Her aesthetic can be viewed as unsettling at times, but upon close examination, her work wavers on creative genius. Kawakubo challenges the conventional perception of beauty, good taste, and fashion. A thematic exhibition, rather than a traditional retrospective, this is The Costume Institute’s first single-subject show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Walking through the exhibit it is clear that Kawakubo has blurred the line between art and fashion. She is pushing us to think differently about clothing. Her creations are sculptural, intelligent and creative. She deconstructs fashion to the core. Her genius is that she is challenging us to think differently about fashion and beauty. According to Francesca Sterlacci, the Founder/CEO of University Of Fashion, “She challenged the status quo meaning of clothes and succeeded in disrupting the notion of  ‘traditional beauty.’ In light of the controversy over body fat and body shaming, Kawakubo sends a powerful message.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

The exhibition showcases approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection. The white-walled exhibit is broken into nine dominate and recurring aesthetic expressions 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. Each section examines the “in-betweenness.”  The exhibit guidebook suggests a pathway through the circular layout inhabited by puzzle-piece-like structures framing the looks, but guests also are encouraged to choose their own adventures and let their imaginations go wild.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

In her career, the 74-year old designer has been hailed a revolutionary; she has managed to break down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate the endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity. The exhibit reflects Kawakubo’s enduring interest in blurring the boundaries between body and dress.

Studying Kawakubo’s work it becomes clear, she loves to experiment with forms and clearly ignores the norm — she is in a constant search for “newness.” Her clothes are sculptural objects, non-functional at times, but maybe we should forget about clothing and we should view Kawakubo’s work as a true contemporary artist whose tools involve fabrics, utility and the body.

Rei Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” A hallmark of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-wabi.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

To learn more about Rei Kawakubo and other key players in the fashion industry, pick up the second edition of “The Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry” (due out in August) by UoF’s founder Francesca Sterlacci, as well as checking out Google’s latest project “We Wear Culture” – Now the world will get to see Kawakubo’s genius.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

 

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

Is Fashion Art? You Bet it is!

For decades, fashion scholars have debated whether fashion should be considered an art form or whether it is solely a craft. Some believe that due to the utilitarian aspect of fashion, it should not be considered art. However, much like famous Impressionist artists of the 19th century, such as Claude Monet, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh, fashion designers also use their creativity as a form of self expression. This becomes even more apparent when fashion designers collaborate with artists. A glance back into fashion history reveals many collaborations between artists and fashion designers, beginning in the early 1900s. Paul Poiret, the first couturier to fuse art and fashion, worked with with prominent artists and illustrators including Georges Lepage, Erté, Georges Barbier and Raoul Duffy. In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated with surrealist artists Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard.

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Evening jacket designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Jean Cocteau (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

During the 1960s, pop artist Andy Warhol joined with Yves Saint Laurent who used Warhol’s Campbell soup can imagery from his paintings to create a series of A-line paper dresses, one called “The Souper Dress.”

souper-dress

The Souper Dress featuring Andy Warhol’s soup can graphics (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

Fast forward to the 21st century. Marc Jacobs, while creative director at Louis Vuitton, collaborated with artists to reinvent the iconic LV logo handbag: Stephen Sprouse’s scrawled silver graffiti (2000), Takashi Murakami’s animated motifs (2004), Richard Prince’s “nurse” prints (2008) and Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots (2012).

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Takashi Murakami

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Stephen Sprouse

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Yayoi Kusama’s polka dotted Louis Vuitton bag
(Image source: NY Times)

In 2016, designer Nicolas Ghesquière channeled California and continued the trend of artistic bags with the LV Petite Malle (small truck) for Cruise ’16.

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louis vuitton

Louis Vuitton Petite Malle clutch

For the past couple of seasons, the trend of marrying art and fashion has become even stronger. Christopher Kane’s gown with nude figure patterns was amongst the most talked about at Met Gala 2015 when worn by FKA Twigs.

fka-twigs-met-gala-2015

FKA twigs wearing a Christopher Kane gown at Met gala 2015 (Image source: Daily Mail)

Moschino introduced pop culture and graffiti-inspired art in its Fall Winter 2015 collection. The graffiti gown and matching gloves from this collection was later worn by Katy Perry, also at the MET gala.

katy-perry-met-gala-2015

Katy Perry in Moschino gown at Met gala 2015 (Image Source: US Weekly)

For their Spring Summer 2016 collection, Dolce & Gabbana paid tribute to Italy with dresses featuring imagery depicting different cities and their names – Roma, Venezia, Portofino amongst others.

dolce-gabbana-roma-dress dolce-gabbana-venezia-dress
Featured above: Dolce & Gabbana dress with artwork depicting Roma and Venezia

Pierpaolo Piccioli collaborated with Zandra Rhodes for Valentino’s Spring Summer 2017 collection, creating gowns with prints of the Hieronymus Bosch painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights.

valentino-art-outfit-ss17-dress

Valentino Spring Summer 2017

A maxi dress from Alice+Olivia’s Spring/Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection depicts a caricature of CEO/designer Stacey Bendet, sporting red lips and round sunglasses.

alice-olivia-art-dress

Alice+Olivia Spring Summer 2017 (Image Credits: Vogue)

Marques’ Almeida added intricate floral art on their dresses, shorts, blouses and trousers.

Marques-Almeida-art-dress

Marques’ Almeida Spring Summer 2017

At Dior, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri introduced feminine gowns and embroidered tulle dresses with tarot cards, cosmic and floral-inspired art with names like “Le Monde”, “La Lune” and “Le Soleil.”

dior-art-dress-gown

Dior Spring Summer 2017

dior-art-black-dress-gown

Dior Spring Summer 2017

Scholars will continue to debate whether fashion is really art, but we at the University of Fashion believe it is, especially when created in collaboration with artists!

Learn more about fashion history, past and present, with our costume history lessons: 100 Years of Fashion Rebels & Revolutionaries, Parts 1 & 2, Keeping Up With the Jones and Wheels Reels & Automobiles.

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