What You Need To Know About Rei Kawakubo, Artist Honored At The 2017 Met Gala

by Alexandra Strickler
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The 2017 Met Gala is happening tonight in New York City, which means it's time to buy a pint of Häagen-Dazs, and plan for an evening inside on the couch.

Kick back, and get ready to watch all of the biggest celebs get dolled up in some really, really weird outfits.

And if you thought the outfits have been super strange in the past, you'd better prepare yourself for what legendary fashion designer Rei Kawakubo will bring to the table for this year's costume theme.

If you're not familiar with Kawakubo's work, let's just say, when asked to describe one of her past collections, she said she was trying "not to make clothes."

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It's safe to say Kawakubo gives an entirely new meaning to the idea of "avant-garde" fashion.

Tonight's Met Gala will feature a special exhibition by the 74-year-old designer, titled, "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between."

As far as I can tell, no one quite knows what that means.

But we do know Kawakubo has made a name for herself by pushing limits and rejecting the norm. She will serve as the Met's first exhibition of a living fashion designer in over three decades.

According to BBC, she's described her visions for her designs,

What I've only ever been interested in are clothes that one has never seen before, that are completely new, and how in what way they can be expressed. Is that called fashion? I don't know the answer.
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First of all, the answer to that question is a firm and definite "yes."

Generally speaking, Rei Kawakubo is notorious for toeing, and perfectly blurring, that line between fashion and art.

She began her career in Japan in the 1970s, which was when she initially founded her label Comme des Garçons.

Her unique visions and savvy business skills soon landed her in the global fashion capitol of Paris, and the rest was history.

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Kawakubo once compared her work to something called Zen koans, which are these impossible riddles that Buddhist teachers use when working with their students.

The Met Gala's exhibition curator, Andrew Bolton, explained the concept:

You're not meant to decipher koans. The idea is that you finally realize they're nonsensical and you realize the limitations of your intellect. Then you free your mind, and by freeing your mind, you get to another point.
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So, don't worry if you find yourself unable to wrap your head around Kawakubo's designs as you watch the Met Gala tonight. Her work isn't really meant to be clearly interpreted by anyone.

What's the best way to appreciate her work? I'd say, expect the unexpected, and have an open mind.

Bolton added,

She forces you to rethink notions of beauty, notions of the body, notions of fashion, notions of wearability -- breaking down these barriers by creating hybrid identities.

Citations: Everything to Know About the Met Gala (The New York Times), Met Gala to honour Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo (BBC News), Chief Curator Andrew Bolton Takes Us Inside the Costume Institute's “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” Exhibition (Vogue)