Like many women, I’ve had a somewhat turbulent relationship with my self-image. Thanks to a particularly nasty bout with eczema when I was younger and constant weight fluctuations, it was difficult to feel comfortable — much less confident — in my own skin. Age helped me navigate those treacherous waters, but fashion was mostly what kept me afloat. Despite how I felt about my body, I always found ways to have fun with how I dressed.
Being in New York City is a dream for fans of fashion. The city is filled with arbiters of personal style who offer boundless inspiration on a daily basis. It plays host to New York Fashion Week, which draws the fashion elite from all over the world. And it’s home to The Met’s Costume Institute. The annual spring exhibition is something I look forward to, and I was particularly excited to learn that Rei Kawakubo would be the subject this year. She is only the second living designer to be granted the honor.
Tokyo-born Rei Kawakubo is the founder of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market, and has been a reluctant influence in the world of fashion. Her designs are often considered too avant garde to be wearable, and push the boundaries of translating fashion into art. But her designs also challenge the relationship between our bodies and the clothes that cover them. Many of her fans live outside the space occupied by tall, blonde beauties in skintight dresses.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is an exhibit that highlights the dualities of her designs and all the spaces in between. It draws from collections as far back as 1982 and juxtaposes such ideas as Absence/Presence, High/Low, Self/Other and Clothes/Not Clothes.
“I wasn’t limited to the confines of a pattern. Not being educated, not being taught how to design, I was able to visualize in a completely different context. And I still seem able to draw upon the unconventional.”
– Rei Kawakubo, 1993
The exhibition also features the work of her longtime collaborator, hairstylist Julien d’Ys. The two have worked together for decades, so it’s only fitting that the exhibition features his work alongside hers. He’s said that Rei Kawakubo often gives him only one word to work with, like “bird” or “silver”. His headpieces in the exhibit are equally as captivating.
It’s taken some time, but I’ve learned to accept who I am and what I’m comfortable in. Do I still want to be the girl with the super long legs in the jeans that fit her like a glove? Sure, sometimes. But do I want to be the super cool Comme des Garçons girl in a leather jacket and a poufy skirt? All the time.
If you missed it, you can read our post on last year’s Costume Institute exhibition, Manus X Machina here.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is on display through September 9 and access is included in your admission to the Met.
1000 5th Ave
Pair it with:
Soba at Cocoron
Cocoron is a Japanese-owned restaurant that specializes in homemade soba noodles. It has stealthily grown its presence in the Lower East Side with a health-centric focus by using only the highest-quality ingredients. Hot and cold soba options are available, which makes it a wonderful year-round option. You can choose to have your soba noodles served in a soup, or dipping style. The dipping style offers a more concentrated broth, which can be watered down at the end of the meal to be consumed on its own.
Cocoron has always offered several vegan options, but has since expanded to offer gluten-free noodles as well. The staff is keenly aware of potential food allergens, and can provide a detailed guide to their patrons who have strict dietary restrictions. They also consistently experiment with flavors, offering specials like the Thai-influenced Tom Yum soba, the Korean-influenced Kimchee soba, and the Nepali-influenced Nam San special (named for the Nepalese chef who created it). We’ve been patronizing the joint for years, and we’re happy to report that they’ve recently opened a third, more spacious location. Cocoron strikes the perfect balance between something familiar and something experimental.