2017 Fashion Blockbuster: Pharrell Williams and Katy Perry to co-chair Costume Institute Gala for Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), “Body Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body,” spring/summer 1997. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Paolo Roversi

May might seem like a long way off but fashion mavens are already entering the date of May 4th, 2017 in their Google calendars. That’s when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute‘s will debut its new exhibit, which will be devoted to Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons. Of course, those fashion machers fortunate enough to have snagged an invite to the annual Costume Institute Benefit will have had a swishy preview on the night of the gala, but given the exquisiteness of Kawakubo’s creations, they’re likely to want to come back for a second look. The 2017 gala promises once again to bring out an army of paparazzi—the evening’s co-chairs will be Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams, along with Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo will serve as honorary chair. Presented in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the second floor, the exhibition will showcase approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons dating from her first Paris runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, “Body Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body,” spring/summer 1997. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Paolo Roversi

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.”

The exhibit will examine Kawakubo’s pioneering experimentation with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. Existing within and between entities—self/other, object/subject, fashion/anti-fashion—Kawakubo’s work challenges conventional notions of beauty and good taste. By placing her designs within and between dualities such as East/West, male/female, and past/present, Kawakubo not only challenges the rigidity and artificiality of such binaries, but also resolves and dissolves them. To reflect this, mannequins will be arranged at eye level with no physical barriers, thereby dissolving the usual distance between objects on display and museum visitors. Not a traditional retrospective, the thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, “Blue Witch,” spring/summer 2016. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Paolo Roversi

“In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of The Met. “Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

The exhibition will be overseen by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who will collaborate on the exhibition design with Rei Kawakubo. Nathan Crowley will serve as exhibition production designer for the fifth time, working in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department. Raul Avila will produce the gala décor, which he has done since 2007.

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Bolton. “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 for Comme des Garçons, “Not Making Clothing,” spring/summer 2014. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Paolo Roversi

A publication, authored by Bolton and designed by Fabien Baron, will accompany the exhibition. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.  A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/ReiKawakubo, provides information about the exhibition.

In celebration of the opening, The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.