This spring 2017, 140 items by fashion designer Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons womenswear collection is on display at the Metropolitan Museum New York. The costume institute has gone out of its way to create a show around the theme of “in-betweenness”, a concept she has been working on since she began her career in the early 1980s.

The philosophical essence: Absence/Presence, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, High/Low, Object/Subject, Clothes/Not Clothes, Self/Other are expressionistically compartmentalised in 9 enclaves, each simulating the dresses’ architectural shapes. Kawakubo declares: “My clothes and the spaces they inhabit are inseparable – they are one and the same. They convey the same vision, the same message, and the same sense of values”.

Design/Not Design for instance reflects her process: the idea of the unfinished, elements of asymmetry, elimination, juxtaposition; Fashion/Anti-fashion, designs from her Paris years in the early 1980s have taken the colour black to a revolutionary level; Then/Now seems like an installation of large bodied sculptures drawn from her fascination with the extravagant shapes of garments from the 17th century, High/Low is about street style, combining tutus with biker jackets, “Harley Davidson meets Margot Fonteyn”.

Even though the work is a statement against fashion itself, she doesn’t consider it to be Art. Needing to break with the constraints of formality, especially the Western and Eastern cultures she has been subjected to her whole life, fashion is more of a tool to integrate and rethink social phenomenons. Wearability and functionality constitute no factor in this designer’s way of thinking. It is a large alternative world spawned from words like innovation, emptiness, space, “bad taste”, freedom that she has proven herself to be a true force of nature.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons on view at the Met Fifth Avenue, New York
May 4 – September 4, 2017