Thursday, 18 July 2013


Whilst many designers become hugely successful in their own right, very few manage to create collections that are conceptual and avant-garde whilst also being selling enough of the collection to sustan a lengthy career. Rei Kawakubo, however, is now in her fourth decade in the fashion industry and her house, Comme des Garçons continues to thrive. Renowned for her desire to push the boundaries of wearability and challenge modern perceptions of "fashion" Kawakubo has created many iconic collections but this, her Spring/Summer 1997 collection, is arguably the most iconic. 

The collection, entitled "Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body", was based on the concept of a woman being physically attached to her burdens. The dresses in the collection were disfigured with wads of padding which led many to criticise Kawakubo for deliberately creating a collection that was deemed to be unflattering and "anti-feminine". In addition, there was debate as to what the "burdens" were supposed to be - in some cases the padding was shaped like a baby in a sling, an obvious commentary on the weight of motherhood, but in other cases the lumps were attached to the hip, leaving an ambiguous meaning. 

The use of gingham throughout the collection was also interesting, as the print in itself brings to mind the traditional stereotype of a 1950s housewife which is, in some ways, the blueprint that modern feminists are trying to escape. The combination of the fabric and the "lumps" provide a social commentary of sorts, indicating a woman that is trapped by routine and tradition, permanently joined with her troubles. 

Perhaps another reason that the collection was (and still is) so groundbreaking is that the collection is almost a pure representation of fashion as an art form. Kawakubo herself was never formally trained in fashion, instead choosing to study fine art and literature - this is a strong indication as to why her clothing is never truly designed to flatter a womans figure or be widely desirable, she instead prefers to design clothing steeped in concept that alienates a large portion of the fashion 'audience'. Her work is also appreciated by the art world, to the extent that the collection led to a collaboration with renowned avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham, named "Scenario". It is rare that a designer manages to please critics of both art and fashion without being so divisive that they lose their mainstream audience - for this reason, it is undeniable that this is one of the greatest collections in fashion history.


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