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Posts Tagged ‘Leigh Bowery’

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Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 1997

What’s so inspiring about Rei is that for her the body has no bounds, and fashion itself has no limits. That to me is what her legacy is — the body and the dress body in fashion is limitless … When you think about what’s been achieved in the last 40 years and the types of things we take for granted now — the unfinished, asymmetry, black as a fashionable color were pioneered by Rei. But beyond the formal aspects of that, she has always rebuffed the status quo … I feel if Rei didn’t exist we would have to invent her to explain the last 40 years because her impact in fashion is that big.

– Andrew Bolton, curator of the current Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC exhibit, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. 
This quote is from an interview with Mr. Bolton for Women’s Wear Daily.
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Paired with ballerina flats. Look at the tight shoulders. Kind of like she’s wrapped up.

I was just reading about Rei Kawakubo in a book about avant-garde fashion (Fashion Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, Bloomsbury). She says there is no meaning to her designs and yet people seem compelled to find something behind (between?) the unexpected bumps, pads, layers and outrageous silhouettes.

I find her fascinatingly inaccessible. I don’t know what to make of her designs except that they are:

1. Completely noncommercial.

2. They look like they’re challenging to wear.

3. They remind me of Leigh Bowery, the British club kid of the 1980s who also came up with some wild unflattering silhouettes.
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Leigh Bowery original design, 1980s.

There is one very big difference between the two – Mr. Bowery played in a dark and freaky arena, by making everything larger than life. Not to mention his makeup and masks. Ms. Kawakubo stays within the non-freak zone by using (sometimes) feminine prints and colors and showing her clothing on lovely mainstream models. She certainly bumps up against freak (pun intended!) but with a light, quiet hand.

I would say that perhaps Ms. Kawakubo uses the body as a canvas, so to speak, for her sculptures. And in doing so she has, as Mr. Bolton points out, impacted fashion.
Fashion model Anna Cleveland, an attendee of the recent Met Gala calls Ms. Kawakubo’s designs, “Walking art.”
Click here for more information on Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between on now at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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409full-rei-kawakuboIf you have total freedom to design, you won’t get anything interesting. So I give myself restraints in order to kind of push myself through, to create something new. It’s the torture that I give myself, the pain and the struggle that I go through. So it’s self-given, but that’s the only way, I think, to make a strong, good new creation.

– Rei Kawakubo, renowned fashion designer for Comme des Garcons.

Ms. Kawakubo is known for her experimental construction and unconventional silhouettes. One can sense her self-torture looking at her designs, which to my mind are interesting soft sculpture but not at all wearable. Her work reminds me of Leigh Bowery concoctions.

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Rei Kawakubo designs for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 2016.

But I do like her ready-to-wear … like this one:

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Ready-to-wear spring/summer 2016.

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1090175342There was one period when my favorite fabric was flesh. Human flesh. I didn’t wear any clothes for a while.

– Leigh Bowery (1961-1994), Australian-born fashion designer, London 80s club kid.

I recently watched the documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery and although Mr. Bowery’s style is not at all my cup of tea, I appreciate his creativity and individuality. A friend of Boy George and model for artist Lucian Freud, Mr. Bowery was part of the New Romantics, a fashion and music sub-culture in 1980s London.

Leigh-Bowery-03The getups Mr. Bowery put together were elaborate, grotesque, and monster-like in size. He topped off each creation with clown makeup or a head mask. Strutting, posing, and flirting Mr. Bowery moved about as a performance piece making quite an impact on the scene at the time.

Mr. Bowery showed at both London and Tokyo Fashion Week, but the industry was an issue for him because he really was only interested in designing for himself, not wanting to be copied. However, he did make couture pieces for entertainer friends including experimental dance choreographer Michael Clark. He’s also credited with having influenced the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

I wonder how Mr. Bowery would dress himself today had he lived. Would age make any difference? Would he eventually have become bored with his own creations?

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