It’s no exaggeration to say that Rei Kawakubo is the most important fashion designer alive and currently active. That’s not just because the Metropolitan Museum in New York did a retrospective of her work this year (and as many have already said, only Yves Saint Laurent has received the same honor while alive). What the exposition did was explain (impeccably, btw) the Japanese fashion designer’s worldview to those who were disposed to try and understand and to show that even in the melodramatic times we live in coherence, honesty, talent, resilience, and daring will sooner or later be recognized.
Text by Erika Palomino*
In a certain way, for Melissa, participating in the Comme des Garçons Summer 2018 fashion show vibrates on a similar frequency.
At 74 Rei Kawakubo is much more than just a well-recognized conceptual creator. Her intellectual thought and visionary eye have kept her looking forward since forever: when she started her brand in the 70s and created a legion of fans dressed all in black; with the deconstruction she showed in her Paris fashion shows in the 80s; or in the 2000s, with the Dover Street Market out of London, the flagship that changed the concept of multi-brands and spread throughout the world, becoming the 0 million dollar business it is today.
In sum, when she gets close to a brand, she knows what she’s doing – both as a fashion designer and businessperson.
According to her, the origin of ideas is in never being satisfied with that which already exists. Since 73’, when she created CDG, her search has been for innovation at all costs and for freedom of expression through the clothes we wear. Despite all the conceptualism attributed to her, some of her rhythm had already come off of the streets from personal narratives full of emotion with a special fondness – albeit surreal – for storytelling. A silhouette from the 1700s might meet a punk or ballerina. At her shows, that sometimes for example don’t even have music or makeup, it’s common to see some of the market’s most experienced professionals leave the room speechless. Without having formed an opinion. Without having understood. I’ve seen it happen a lot, and it’s happened a lot to me too, of course.
Many times, there are shapes that look nothing like anything we’ve seen before. Distorted or twisted figures, human silhouettes that don’t exist, or clothes that are simply impossible to wear like a piece (a dress, if we can call it that) with nowhere to put your arms. “But is that fashion?” you may be thinking. Rei Kawakubo, despite having appeared in museums, says that fashion is not art and rejects being called an “artist”.
She recently created a collection using something she called non-fabrics, creating what she called non-fashion. Since the 80’s her style has been called anti-fashion, since it in no way followed the fashions being produced at the time. Anti-fashion, seen with the light of historical perspective, is fashion too as it turns out. And Comme des Garçons, which never set out to start a revolution, has changed the way we look at fashion, at bodies, and at the world. Rei Kawakubo is the high priestess of Fashion.
For Melissa, having a product in a Comme des Garçons fashion show is a moment of tremendous inspiration.
And for those who have yet to notice, talk about fashion is changing. It’s changing because there are, in fact, many fashions out there (far beyond Paris, New York, or São Paulo) and many stories to tell.
Melissa’s collaboration with Comme des Garçons is proof of that.
* Erika is a fashion journalist and creative consultant for Melissa