Rei Kawakubo: Fashion’s Reluctant Artist


Fashion and contemporary art have always been like cousins. They share the blood of their ancestors, but they are different. There is a hint of rivalry and a dose of mutual admiration.

On a sunny day, they will sit together and tease each other with embarrassing stories from childhood,but on cold, wintry days of adulthood, they will keep each other warm. Sharing and caring and sibling rivalry is all part of the game.
In the 60s, YSL was already sending out his work inspired by Andy Warhol, Van Gogh and Georges Braque but his 1965 Mondrian collection is the most eternal homage: containing six shift dresses inspired by Piet Mondrian and De Stijl, the colorful collection that took the world by storm.

YSL was also the only living designer before Rei Kawakubo to be honored with a retrospective in 1983 by the MET Museum. Thats 34 years ago.
The art world has always been standoffish, scoffing at the vanity and indulgence of the fashion industry, sometimes forgetting how closely they are related.

As Matthew Schneier writing on  the founder of Comme des Garçons in the NYtimes noted,
“Ms. Kawakubo is adamant that she is not an artist. “There are very few designers working today whose body of work could sustain itself in the context of an art museum,” Mr. Bolton had said earlier, but Ms. Kawakubo considers herself a businesswoman first and foremost.”
But this is a whole different story from being inspired by Art.
Rea Kawakubo has been fashion industry’s very own reluctant artist. Even if she doesn’t see herself as one, the world does. She is a movement by herself, standing apart from the crowd; her work and her public self embodies the anarchy and esoteric nature that essentially makes an art movement.

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