Rei Kawakubo is a notoriously enigmatic, elusive figure: diminutive in personal presence, especially for someone who makes such oversized, extra-corporeal garments. Kawakubo rarely grants interviews, saying she doesn't “trust words,” and prefers to let her avant-garde collections speak for themselves. The upcoming retrospective of her work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (and the basis for last night's Met Gala) is equally tight-lipped: the exquisite, surreal garments are presented without descriptions beyond titles like “Absence/Presence” and “Fashion/Antifashion.”
In service of better understanding this non-verbal look at Kawakubo's oeuvre, I've rounded up seven pieces of required reading: a primer for understanding how, exactly, we should read Comme des Garçons.
Choice Quote: “I don't trust words.”
Choice Quote: “Yet if Kawakubo consents to call her style ‘rebellious’ and ‘aggressive’ it is also intensely feminine in a bittersweet way. Her clothes suggest a kinship with a long line of fictional holy terrors: Pippi Longstocking, Cathy Earnshaw, Claudine—motherless tomboys who refused to master drawing-room manners and who, when forced into a dress, hiked up their petticoats and climbed a tree.”
Choice Quote: “Is it prenatal, or is it about love and death, outer space and deep space, sea anemone and siren?
What does Kawakubo dream?”
4. Here, the headline really says it all: “John Waters on his Rei Kawakubo Obsession”
Choice Quote: “What used to be called ‘seconds’ (clothes that were on sale in bargain basements of department stores because of accidental irregularities) is now called ‘couture.’ Ms. Kawakubo is my god.”
Choice Quote: “What they do have in common, however, is a set of values. ‘It all comes from the same source: the desire to create something different. Our kachikan, or sense of values, goes into everything the company does. Not just clothes but everything. It has to be new.’”
Choice Quote (there are many gems, but): “You can’t be enslaved to something you choose.”
Choice Quote: “She says she has no desire for possessions. She doesn’t know why, but she’s never wanted to collect anything for as long as she can remember.”