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Met Curator Andrew Bolton Talks About Working with Rei Kawakubo

Some of Kawakubo's signature designs, which are on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until September 4.

The Costume Institute’s Comme des Garcons “Art of the In-Between” exhibit, honoring CDG creative director Rei Kawakubo, has been on display for two months.

In a recent talk with fashion journalist Harriet Quick, Andrew Bolton, the exhibition’s curator, spoke about his experiences working with Kawakubo. The talk was hosted by the late Alexander McQueen’s charity, the Sarabande Foundation in London.

Bolton discussed how he obtained his initial inspiration, the difficulty of tracking down Kawakubo, and her unconventional work ethic, which mirrors her avant-garde designs.

Bolton was inspired by the first interview that Kawakubo, a notorious recluse to the media, gave to AnOther Magazine in 1997. He was fascinated by how she answered questions—referencing a time when she was silent and simply drew a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. This concept of space and emptiness is what influenced the exhibition’s title, “Art of the In-Between.”

The exhibition features Kawakubo’s collections dating back 30 years until the present. Visitors can see what is described as “anti-fashion”—cocoon-shaped dresses, gigantic ruffled sleeves and over-the-top headdresses.

Bolton said that while Kawakubo might not have been an obvious choice for the exhibition, she immediately came to his mind because of her innovative talent and her ability challenge fashion norms by using unconventional construction methods and silhouettes.

Kawakubo described her aesthetic in 1993, saying, “I wasn’t limited to the confines of a pattern. Not being educated, not being taught how to design, I was able to visualize in a completely different context. And I still seem able to draw upon the unconventional.”

“I feel as if a lot of the aspects of fashion that we might take for granted–things like asymmetry, or deconstruction, the idea of the unfinished–were pioneered by Rei as early as the early 1980s,” Boltom said. “In a way she’s almost changed the course of fashion history over the last 40 years.”

Working with Kawakubo was a unique learning experience, Bolton said.

“She cared more about the design of the exhibition than the actual curation, the design was really important to her. The biggest challenge for me was, she was asking me not to think about the curation, and to think about the design as an abstract idea–to work with her on that without thinking about the curation.”

You can view “Art of the In-Between” through September 4 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

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