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In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

By FashionUnited

May 11, 2017


Over the years Rei Kawakubo has addressed many of life’s big questions in her work––art, marriage, death, spirituality––and some little ones too. Here are her thoughts with images from the Met’s exhibition of her work.

On Gender:

“Spiritually, there are no more differences between men and women. What is important is being human.”

On Female Designers:

“The sexual overkill and exposed bodies in fashion are the result of men designing for women. I think that more interesting results arise when women design for themselves.”

On Feminism:

“I am not a feminist. I was never interested in any movement as such. I just decided to build a company around creation, and with creation as my sword, I could fight the battles I wanted to fight.”

On Punk:

“I like the punk spirit. I’ve always liked the spirit in the sense that it’s against the run of the mill, the normal way of doing things. Every collection is that. Punk is against flattery, and that’s what I like about punk.”

On Beauty:

“Fashion design is not about revealing or accentuating the shape of a woman’s body; its purpose is to allow a person to be what they are.”

On Black:

“I design in three shades of black… Color distracts from form.”

On Being Over Black:

“Red is black.”

On Geometry:

“To me the circle is the purest form of design in existence.”

On Form”

“All my effort is orientated towards giving form to clothes that have never been seen before.”

On Math:

“One plus one could amount to three or even four.”

On her State of Mind:

“I am an adult delinquent, to the end.”

On Landfills:

“Instead of [people] buying three pieces of clothing in a month or a year, why not buy one they can afford and enjoy it. Rather than creating a lot of clothes, I wish people would value creativity so that the world will not be filled up with rubbish clothes.”

On Outsiders:

“The monsters I thought about are those that don’t fit in––those who think differently from the majority, the people of exception, outsiders. I wish that society would place more importance and value on these kind of monsters.”

On Spirituality:

“Perhaps because Comme des Garçons stands for a totality of thinking, a commitment to a whole, a faith in the strength of the individual and his potential, people can find a spiritual dimension.”

On Gold:

“Gold is the color of the Catholic Church… it is also the color of Dubai, of marble-floored shopping malls, and also of teapots.”

On Flowers:”

“Flowers are happy and positive. Flowers, when blooming, are in their peak of energy and strength.”

On Blood:

What flows through everyone is blood… [Blood] is the state of being alive.”

On Tailoring:

“I have always liked traditional English menswear.”

On The Inner Child:

“…since I cannot be a child, I began to think, how can I make the kind of clothes children would make? How can I make childish clothes?”

On Marriage:

“By breaking the rules of wedding dresses, by going behind the idea, there was born the information that marriage is not necessarily happy.”

On Balance:

“I’m more comfortable with off balance––the unbalanced and asymmetrical. But what I do is try to create a balance in the whole, because I’m aiming at presenting the total image, not a haphazard or random world.”

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All photos by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited. Words compiled from the exhibition’s companion book.