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Between worlds of taste and recognition

By Sonia Altshuler | China Daily Asia | Updated: 2017-05-25 16:16

Between worlds of taste and recognition

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons [Photo by Collier Schorr/Courtesy of Comme des Garçons]

Rei Kawakubo clearly isn't Miuccia Prada, but in the countercultural ecosystem of fashion for the disenfranchised, the two bear remarkable similarities. Geography has seemingly dictated the impact of both. Prada has been subject to an A to Z of academic rigour across the fashion campuses of Europe and America, and she been the subject of a Metropolitan Museum exhibition herself in tandem with Elsa Schiaparelli.

But Kawakubo, the creator of Tokyo-based Comme des Garçons ("like boys"), which has grown into a business that churns more than $220 million a year, has remained largely the preserve of the Japanese. She's also the co-founder of London's hip Dover Street Market fashion destination, which she founded in 2004 with her husband, Adrian Joffe.

Now, it seems Kawakubo's global moment is at hand as she gets a five-month-long run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York with Art of the In-Between, running until September. It's the first monographic exhibition of a living designer at the Met since the Yves Saint Laurent show in 1983.

Prada basically epitomises "ugly chic" in the world today, through her use of fabrics that challenged notions of luxury coupled with provocative designs, but Kawakubo was doing the same several years earlier (at least as far as the West was concerned) when she made her Paris debut in 1981. Kawakubo's early collections established an unsettling zone of ambiguity that challenged the accepted notions of beauty, good taste, and even fashionability.

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