University of Fashion Blog

Posts Tagged: "The Metropolitan Museum of Art"

SLEEPING BEAUTIES: REAWAKENING FASHION – THE 2024 COSTUME INSTITUTE EXHIBITION

Dress by Undercover, spring 2024. (Photo Credit: The Met)

Did you know that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the fourth largest art museum in the world, and that its Costume Institute boasts the largest collection of fashion? This season the Costume Institute’s semi-annual exhibition is entitled Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion and opens to the public on May 10th. It promises to cast a spell of awe and wonder upon all who enter its realm and delves into the realm of dreams, where fashion becomes a vehicle for exploration, transformation, and reawakening.

Left and Right: Dresses by Loewe, fall 2023. Center: Evening Look by Nina Ricci, circa 1958. (Photo Credit: The Met)

The exhibition, runs from  May 10 through September 2, 2024, and features approximately 250 garments and accessories that are connected visually through nature, which also serves as a metaphor for the transience of fashion. According to the Met’s press release, “The show will bring to life the sensory capacities of these masterworks through a wide range of encounters: visitors will be invited to smell the aromatic histories of hats bearing floral motifs; to touch the walls of galleries that will be embossed with the embroidery of select garments; and to experience—via the illusion technique known as Pepper’s ghost—how the “hobble skirt” restricted women’s stride in the early 20th century. Punctuating the galleries will be a series of “sleeping beauties”—garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins due to their extreme fragility.”

Ballgown by Charles Frederick Worth, circa 1887. (Photo Credit: The Met)

The glamorous Met Gala®, known as one of Fashion’s biggest nights, kicks off the exhibition on Monday May 6th.  This year’s gala is co-chaired by Anna Wintour, Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Lopez. The event is the Costume Institute’s prime source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations, and capital improvements.

An Evening Cloak by Charles Frederick Worth. (Photo Credit: Nick Knight for the Met)

While gala attendees dress to impress, the official dress code for the night will be “The Garden of Time.” Shou Chew, Chief Executive Officer of TikTok and Jonathan Anderson, Creative Director of LOEWE, both serve as honorary chairs. The exhibit showcases approximately 250 rare items drawn from the Costume Institute’s permanent collection, spanning 400 years of fashion history. The masterpieces include looks by Schiaparelli, Dior, Givenchy and pieces that are too fragile to ever be worn again—such as a Charles Frederick Worth ball gown from 1877,  and therefore are displayed via video animation, light projection, AI, CGI, and other forms of sensory stimulation.

Venus ball gown and Junon ball gown, both by Christian Dior, fall 1949. (Photo Credit: The Met)

Upon entering the exhibit, guests will discover an arrangement of self-contained galleries organized into three sections. Each gallery will explore a different element inspired by nature – earth, air, and water – with historical fashions juxtaposed with contemporary counterparts in an immersive experience that will engage a visitor’s sense of sight, smell, touch, and sound. According to Andrew Bolton and Wendy Yu, Curators in Charge of the Costume Institute, “It is very much an ode to nature and the emotional poetics of fashion.”

A Dress by Alexander McQueen, spring 2011. (Photo Credit: The Met)

Watch The Met Gala® red carpet arrival live-streamed on Vogue.com or you follow the event on social media to join in the conversation. Use #ReawakeningFashion, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute and #MetGala.

So, as your social media feed will be bombarded with Met Gala® coverage, tell us, which stars are you hoping to see on the Red Carpet?

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES: THE THRILL OF EXPLORING FASHION EXHIBITS

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In a world that’s constantly on the move, where trends come and go in the blink of an eye, there’s something undeniably magical about stepping into a fashion exhibit. It’s not just about admiring exquisite garments or marveling at the ingenuity of designers – it’s an immersive journey into the heart of creativity, a celebration of beauty, history, and culture.

In this week’s UOF blog, we are highlighting a few fashion exhibits that are currently on display and where you will find tons of great inspiration.

EXPLORING THE ESSENCE OF STYLE IN THE CITY BY THE BAY

Rodarte’s gold evening dress from the Spring 2011 Collection. (Photo Credit; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco0

San Francisco, the city that birthed the Beat Generation, fostered the Summer of Love, and continues to be a hotbed of creativity and innovation, has always been a bastion of style. Now, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) celebrates this rich sartorial heritage with its latest exhibit, “Fashioning San Francisco: Celebrating the Style of a City” the exhibit is now open and will run through August 11, 2024.

This immersive exhibition is a love letter to the unique fashion sense that has defined the City by the Bay for generations. Curated from one of America’s largest collections of fashion, the exhibit presents a carefully curated selection of garments and accessories that collectively tell the story of San Francisco’s evolving style identity.

As visitors step into the exhibit, they are transported through time, beginning with the Gold Rush era when San Francisco was a bustling frontier town. Here, they encounter opulent Victorian dresses adorned with lace and intricate beadwork, reminiscent of the city’s affluent elite who sought to flaunt their newfound wealth.

Moving forward in time, the exhibit captures the bohemian spirit of the 1960s, a period that forever altered the city’s cultural landscape. Vibrant tie-dye shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and psychedelic prints evoke memories of the Summer of Love, when Haight-Ashbury became ground zero for the counterculture movement.

But “Fashioning San Francisco” is not merely a nostalgic journey through the past; it also highlights the city’s ongoing influence on contemporary fashion. A section dedicated to the tech boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries showcase sleek, minimalist designs favored by Silicon Valley’s elite. Visitors marvel at innovative garments crafted from cutting-edge materials, reflective of San Francisco’s position at the forefront of technological innovation.

What sets this exhibit apart is its immersive approach to storytelling. Visitors are not passive observers but active participants in the narrative. Interactive displays invite them to try on replica garments from different eras, allowing them to experience firsthand the evolution of San Francisco style. Additionally, multimedia installations featuring archival footage and interviews with fashion designers offer deeper insights into the city’s fashion landscape.

Fashioning San Francisco” not only celebrates the past, but also serves as a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit of creativity, individuality, and innovation. In a world where trends come and go, San Francisco’s style remains timeless.

EXPLORING THE VIBRANT WORLD OF PACITA ABAD

Pacita Abad with her trapunto painting Ati-Atihan, 1983, wearing garments and jewelry collected on her travels. (Photo Credit: Pacita Abad Art Estate)

Sadly the exhibit ended on Jan. 28th, but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) featured the kaleidoscopic universe of Pacita Abad. The exhibit offered a vibrant tribute to one of the Philippines’ most celebrated artist, whose work transcends boundaries of culture, geography, and medium.

Walking through the doors of SFMOMA, visitors were greeted by a riot of color that spills across the gallery walls. This is the world of Pacita Abad – a world where every stroke of the brush, every splash of pigment, tells a story of joy, resilience, and the unbreakable human spirit.

Curated with a keen eye for detail, the exhibit traces Abad’s artistic journey from her early explorations of social realism to her later experiments with abstract expressionism. Here, visitors are treated to a visual feast of paintings, textiles, and mixed-media installations that showcase Abad’s boundless creativity and relentless pursuit of beauty in all its forms.

One of the exhibit’s most striking features is its emphasis on Abad’s use of everyday materials to create art. From traditional canvas and paint to repurposed fabrics, found objects, and even whole cars, Abad’s work defies convention and challenges viewers to reconsider their preconceptions of what constitutes art.

But perhaps what sets Abad apart is her unwavering commitment to social justice and human rights. Throughout her career, Abad used her art as a platform to raise awareness of issues such as poverty, environmental degradation, and political oppression. Her iconic “Trapunto” series, which features large-scale textile paintings adorned with stitched motifs and embellishments, served as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by marginalized communities around the world.

As visitors delved deeper into the exhibit, they were struck by the sheer diversity of Abad’s oeuvre. From her colorful “Sail” series, inspired by her travels to remote corners of the globe, to her haunting “Portraits of Exile” series, which captured the faces of refugees fleeing war and persecution, Abad’s work transcends the boundaries of culture and language to speak to the universal human experience.

Interactive displays invited visitors to engage with Abad’s work on a deeper level, prompting them to reflect on their own experiences of migration, displacement, and belonging. From interactive storytelling sessions to hands-on art workshops, the exhibit offers something for everyone, regardless of age, background, or artistic ability.

In a world that often seems bleak and divided, the art of Pacita Abad offered a ray of hope – a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, and that art has the power to heal, inspire, and unite us all.

UNSUNG WOMEN: THE MET CELEBRATES WOMEN DRESSING WOMEN

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In the heart of Manhattan, where the pulse of fashion beats strongest, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) unveils its latest exhibit, “Women Dressing Women” which will run until March 10, 2024. It’s a celebration of femininity, creativity, and the transformative power of fashion. Stepping into the hallowed halls of the MET, visitors are transported into a world where women are not just the wearers of fashion but also its creators, visionaries, and muses.

Curated with meticulous care, “Women Dressing Women” showcases the work of female designers who have shaped the landscape of fashion throughout history. From Coco Chanel’s revolutionary designs that liberated women from the confines of corsets, to the boundary-pushing creations of contemporary designers like Rei Kawakubo and Phoebe Philo, the exhibit offers a panoramic view of women’s influence on style.

Women Dressing Women” is not just a retrospective; it’s a celebration of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. Throughout the exhibit, visitors are introduced to designers from diverse backgrounds and cultures whose work challenges traditional notions of beauty and femininity. The exhibit will include iconic pieces established designers, including looks by Sarah Burton, Gabrielle Chanel, Ann Demeulemeester, Elizabeth Hawes, and Jeanne Lanvin. Pieces representing designers who have maintained a significant presence in The Costume Institute’s collection and exhibition history—such as Germaine Émilie Krebs, who created under the names Alix and Mme. Grès; Miuccia Prada; and Elsa Schiaparelli—are also featured.

Contemporary designers are also included, such as Hillary Taymour for Collina Strada, Anifa Mveumba for Hanifa, Iris Van Herpen, Norma Kamali, Ester Manas, Jamie Okuma, Simone Rocha, Marine Serre, Yeohlee Teng, and Isabel Toledo, among others, illustrate the creative and conceptual possibilities of contemporary design, highlighting inclusive definitions of womanhood, collaborative practices, a sustainable mindset, and the plurality that has come to define the spirit of fashion today, according to the Met’s press release on the exhibit.

Interactive displays invite visitors to participate in the conversation, prompting them to reflect on their own relationship with fashion and identity. From discussions about body positivity to explorations of cultural appropriation in fashion, the exhibit encourages visitors to think critically about the ways in which fashion shapes our perceptions of ourselves and others.

Here, women are not passive objects of desire, but active agents of change, using fashion as a tool for self-expression, empowerment, and social transformation.

BLOSSOMING ELEGANCE: THE ORCHID SHOW AT THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Orchid Show Florals in Fashion. (Photo Credit: New York Botanical Garden)

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle that is New York City, there exists an oasis of tranquility and beauty – The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Every year, this verdant sanctuary plays host to The Orchid Show, a dazzling celebration of one of nature’s most exquisite creations. But in 2024, the show takes on a new dimension with the introduction of the “Florals in Fashion” installation, inviting visitors to explore the intersection of nature and haute couture. This year the exhibit will run from Feb. 17 to April 21st.

Visitors are transported into a world of unparalleled beauty and elegance. The air is filled with the intoxicating scent of orchids in full bloom, their delicate petals unfurling in a riot of colors – from vibrant purples and pinks to soft pastels and pristine whites. Against this backdrop of natural splendor, mannequins adorned with exquisite floral-inspired garments stand as silent sentinels, their ethereal beauty capturing the essence of the Orchid Show’s theme.

Curated in collaboration with leading fashion designers and floral artists, the “Florals in Fashion” installation showcases the creative ways in which orchids have inspired fashion. The installation features works from Collina Strada by Hillary Taymour, Dauphinette by Olivia Cheng, and FLWR PSTL by Kristen Alpaugh, fashionistas sure to create dramatic, picture-perfect floral displays at the Garden that always capture the orchid’s good side.

But “Florals in Fashion” is not just a celebration of beauty; it’s also a reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainability. Throughout the exhibit, interactive displays educate visitors about the fragile ecosystem that orchids inhabit, and the efforts being made to protect these delicate flowers from extinction. From initiatives to combat deforestation and habitat destruction to programs aimed at curbing the illegal trade of rare and endangered orchid species, the exhibit encourages visitors to reflect on their role in preserving the natural world for future generations.

So, tell us, which fashion exhibit are you most excited to see?

CELEBRATING KARL LAGERFELD: AS BOTH ILLUSTRATOR & DESIGNER

 

Karl Lagerfeld Sketches His Life video (Video Link:  You Tube)

In honor of the upcoming MET exhibit entitled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,”  we would like to celebrate Lagerfeld’s work as an accomplished fashion illustrator, as well as a prolific fashion designer. It is a common myth that all fashion designers are able to conceptualize their fashion designs via fashion illustration. The truth is that very few designers know how to ‘illustrate‘. It is much more common for designers to execute a quick fashion ‘sketch‘ to get their design idea across.

Another misconception is that all fashion illustrators can ‘design’. Well, just because one can illustrate fashion doesn’t mean that they can also design fashion. In fact, it is quite rare when a fashion designer can do both. As many of our subscribers know, there are other skills including draping, pattern making and sewing that should be honed to become a successful designer.

Therefore, in lieu of the upcoming MET show, this week’s blog post will highlight Lagerfeld’s work as both a designer and illustrator. And, since we just celebrated World Creativity Day on April 20th, we will also be highlighting other famous designers/illustrators whose illustrations are fast becoming collector’s items, that are either sold at auction houses or on their websites for thousands of dollars.

KARL LAGERFELD: THE ILLUSTRATOR

The upcoming Lagerfeld MET exhibit, which runs from May 5 to July 16, is expected to draw fashion enthusiasts and industry insiders from around the world eager to experience the life and work of one of fashion’s most influential designers. It will feature Lagerfeld’s most iconic designs, including his re-imagined Chanel jackets, Fendi fur pieces and his signature accessories. The exhibit will also include a variety of personal items belonging to Lagerfeld, such as his sketchbooks, personal correspondence and photographs. This is definitely a designers’s dream show come true!

Karl Lagerfeld and his treasured cat Choupette in Paris 2018. (Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue)

Throughout his career, Lagerfeld created a wealth of fashion illustrations that captured the essence of his designs and his unique creative vision. His illustrations were often used to promote his collections and even today, they continue to inspire and captivate fashion enthusiasts.

In Lagerfeld’s early illustration work, you can see that he had a much tighter hand as shown in the images below that he did for the House of Tiziani before he joined Chanel in 1983.  His illustrations were characterized by their bold, graphic style and attention to detail. Over time however, Lagerfeld’s hand became looser and less rigid and therefore was able to capture the movement and flow of fabrics, often highly stylized, with exaggerated proportions and abstracted shapes. Despite their abstract nature, Lagerfeld’s illustrations always conveyed a sense of elegance and sophistication.

Four of the fashion illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld auctioned on April 18, 2019 (Image Credit wwd.com)

Whether Lagerfeld was illustrating a Chanel jacket or a Fendi gown, he always managed to convey the unique character and style of each piece. Used as promotional materials, Lagerfeld’s illustrations helped build anticipation and excitement for each of his upcoming shows.

Illustration of Chanel coat, fall 2017. (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Lagerfeld’s work was also a reflection of his larger creative vision. He was known for his love of art, literature and culture, and his illustrations often incorporated elements from these fields. For example, he frequently incorporated references to classical art, such as Greek statues, Renaissance paintings or iconic monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. These references added an extra layer of depth and meaning to his work and helped to establish Lagerfeld as a true visionary in the fashion industry.

Lagerfeld’s illustration – Anna Piaggi for Liberty of Fashion, Barney’s New York
1986 (Image Credit: 1stDibs.com)

The work of some fashion designers and fashion illustrators are now highly collectable and are sold on websites like 1stDibs.com, iCanvas.com and Artsy.net or in auction houses around the world.

Lagerfeld illustration

A Karl Lagerfeld illustration circa 1960-1970: original yellow and white coat colored pencil fashion sketch – 10k Appraisal 
Includes a Certificate of Authenticity – sold for US$6,950 (Photo Credit: artsy.net)

In addition to illustrating his collections, Lagerfeld also created a number of illustrations for other purposes, such as books, magazines and even a calendar, showcasing his diverse talents and his ability to adapt his style to different contexts. Lagerfeld’s illustrations were always imbued with his signature style and creativity, making them instantly recognizable as his own.

A Chanel illustration for Lady Gaga created by Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit: Facebook.com)

KARL LAGERFELD: THE DESIGNER

The MET’s Lagerfeld exhibit will consist of approximately 150 designs and according to the MET, it will “explore the artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs through recurring themes across more than 65 years, from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019”. The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala) will take place on Monday, May 1, 2023.

In addition to showcasing Lagerfeld’s designs, the exhibit will explore the designer’s life and legacy. Lagerfeld was known for his larger-than-life personality, his love of art and literature, and his tireless work ethic. The exhibit will delve into Lagerfeld’s background, including his early life in Germany and his rise to fame in the fashion industry. Visitors will gain insight into Lagerfeld’s creative process, his inspirations, and his collaborations with other artists and designers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the exhibit is the opportunity to see Lagerfeld’s designs up close and personal. Visitors will be able to study the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into creating each piece. From the impeccable tailoring of his jackets to the intricate embroidery on his gowns, Lagerfeld’s designs are a testament to his skill as a designer. Here’s a sample of what will be featured in the exhibition:

Wedding dress by Chanel Haute Couture from the Fall 2005 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta. Courtesy of the MET)

A Fendi coat from the fall 2000 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta for the MET)

The exhibit will also feature interactive elements, including virtual reality experiences and interactive displays. Visitors will be able to explore Lagerfeld’s designs in a variety of ways, from 3D projections to virtual runway shows. The exhibit will provide a truly immersive experience, giving visitors a chance to step into Lagerfeld’s world and see the fashion industry through his eyes.

KARL LAGERFELD’S INFLUENCE IS STILL FELT TODAY

A vintage photo of Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit Getty Images)

Lagerfeld served as the creative director for Chanel for over three decades, before his passing on February 19, 2019.

Perhaps one of Lagerfeld’s greatest contributions to fashion was his ability to keep Chanel relevant. When he took over as creative director in 1983, the brand was struggling to remain fresh. However, Lagerfeld breathed new life into the heritage brand, infusing it with his own unique style and vision. He was unafraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, while still remaining true to the brand’s classic aesthetic.

Lagerfeld’s re-invention of the Chanel jacket, which he introduced in the 1980s, was a modern update of the classic silhouette. The jacket became an instant classic and remains a staple of the Chanel collection, in various iterations, today. Although he is no longer with us, Lagerfeld’s influence on fashion will continue to be felt for years to come.

Some of Karl Lagerfeld’s best moments at Chanel. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)

OTHER GREAT FASHION DESIGNERS/ILLUSTRATORS

Most designers working in the fashion industry today have little time to sit down and illustrate their ideas. Most execute quick, rough sketches that they hand off to their assistant or to their pattern maker. But there are fashion designers who prefer to  illustrate their creations and who possess a special talent that enables them to better communicate their vision in a unique and creative way. Most designers will hire a professional fashion illustrator to showcase their work for press purposes, for example, the illustration below is by fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs. See the illustrator’s signature in small script along the vertical sash.

 

Janka Letková fashion illustration

Fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs (Image Credit: iCanvas.com)

Other designers are more inclined to promote their work using their own unique style of illustration. Here a a few of the talented fashion designers who illustrate their own creations.

DIOR’S MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director for Dior, creates exquisite illustrations that are characterized by their romantic, ethereal quality. Her illustrations showcase the details and exquisite craftsmanship of her designs which adds an extra layer of depth and meaning to her work.

 

Maria Grazia Chiuri fashion illustration for Dior for Georgia tour

Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri fashion illustration for recording artist Georgia  for her 2019 tour (Image Credit: fashion press.it.com)

CHRISTIAN LACROIX

French fashion designer Christian Lacroix is also known for his illustration skills, which are characterized by their whimsical, and fantastical style. Lacroix’s illustrations often incorporate elements from art history, such as Rococo motifs and Baroque ornamentation. His illustrations showcase his unique creative vision and his ability to blend different styles and influences into his designs.

Fashion Illustrations by Christian Lacroix (Image Credit: Pinterest.com)

ALBER ELBAZ

Alber Elbaz, the former creative director of Lanvin who sadly passed away on April 24, 2021, was known for his playful and  cartoonish style. His illustrations often featured exaggerated proportions with bright, bold colors and were used to promote his collections. His illustrations were considered artwork in their own right.

A fashion illustration by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin (Image Credit: Pinterest.com) 

CHRISTIAN SIRANO

Christian Siriano is a designer who has built a successful career by creating clothing that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. He is also an accomplished illustrator whose illustrations are playful, yet with a sense of drama and impact. Siriano is one of the designers who sells his limited-edition illustrations, ranging from $75-$1,200, on his website ChristianSiriano.com.

Christian Siriano showing his limited edition fashion illustrations

Christian Siriano showing his limited edition fashion illustrations (Photo Credit: ChristianSiriano.com)

JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER

Jean-Paul Gaultier is a designer known for his daring, unconventional designs. He is also an accomplished illustrator. Gaultier’s illustrations often feature precise, graphic lines, like the one below that he did for Madonna’s MDNA 2012 tour.

fashion illustration by Jean Paul Gaultier 2012

Fashion illustration by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s MDNA Tour 2012

Looking for more info on fashion illustration as collectable items, view our blog from March 14, 21, entitled Looking For a Hot Investment Tip? Try Collectioning Fashion Illustrations.

With the advent of computer-assisted design, fashion illustration has become a luxury for most fashion designers these days. However, at UoF we still promote hand drawn fashion through our Fashion Art discipline consisting of 27 Beginner, 39 Intermediate and 17 Advanced lessons. We teach how to draw, render and illustrate fashion design and accessories and so it’s no wonder that we are head-over-heels excited to see the Lagerfeld show at the MET. Viva La Fashion Illustration!  Viva Lagerfeld!

SO TELL US, DO YOU KNOW OF OTHER FASHION DESIGNERS THAT CAN ILLUSTRATE?

 

 

 

 

 

Field Trip: Irving Penn at the Met

- - Field Trip

When you think of iconic fashion magazine images, which favorite shots come to mind?

Ethereal, natural, almost dream-like images shot by Annie Leibovitz? Maybe bold, bright shots by Mario Testino? Perhaps the tongue-in-cheek, sexy, playful images by Cass Bird?

These prolific photogs share something in common. No matter the celebrity, product or scene they are shooting, they do so through their own recognizable lens.

Irving Penn is one such master at putting his spin on a photograph regardless of the subject—and is a recent subject himself of an exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit marks the centennial celebration of Penn’s birth, and we were lucky to get a few of our own photos of this artist’s expansive body of work over a career spanning almost 70 years. Read More

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