Wearable Art: Collecting Comme at the NGV
National Gallery of Victoria’sCollecting Comme is this summer’s must-see exhibition, with avant-garde garments designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Collecting Comme showcases the originality of the Japanese designer and her contribution to contemporary fashion. It examines Kawakubo’s unique style, deconstructed shapes and radical concept of the relationship between body and dress.
Kawakubo is a visionary and influential fashion designer who has always followed the beat of her own drum. With the intent to always make clothes that didn’t exist before, Kawakubo consistently defied conventions to redefine fashion and reframe ideas of beauty. In 2005 Kawakubo told The New Yorkerthat she “never intended start a revolution,” but simply wanted to show what she thought was “strong and beautiful.”
Kawakubo also never trained to be a fashion designer. She studied art and literature at Keio University and entered the fashion industry in the 1960s working at a textile factory. Kawakubo became a freelance stylist in 1967 and two years later began making clothes under Comme des Garçons. The label acquired a loyal following in Japan in the 1970s, with the Japanese press dubbing Kawakubo’s hardcore fans as “the crows” because of the designer’s penchant for a palette of black. (The term still holds today.)
Kawakubo’s garments rarely reveal the body. Rather she distorts the human form with exaggerated and oversized shapes, proposing a bold reconsideration of beauty and the body. Kawakubo’s garments are layered with decorative devices and reflect her obsession with elaborate construction methods and traditional tailoring and dressmaking techniques.
Collecting Comme features more than 50 pieces of Comme des Garçon, spanning more than three decades from 1981, when Kawakubo first exhibited in Paris, to recent designs from the “Blood and Roses” collection of 2014. Self-described “Comme tragic” Takamasa Takahashi gifted and loaned the garments to NGV from his personal collection. He first encountered Comme des Garçons in the mid-1970s, and began regularly buying, wearing and collecting the clothing in the 1980s.
The exhibition also features designs from two of Kawakubo’s protégés: Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara. The exhibition is on from 31 October 2019 to 26 July 2020 and free to visit.