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Rei Kawakubo

If clothes make the man, then what are the sartorial choices of a handsome, young, New York-based gallerist with one foot in the world of fashion and the other in the world of modern art? Let's consult the opinion of Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld on the matter. Vladimir is a man who smartly recognizes the long love affair that exists between the worlds of art and fashion and he has deftly secured sponsorship from luxury fashion labels for his free-spirited brand of art promotion in which museum-style art exhibitions pop up in industrial spaces around the globe. Most recently sponsorship has come from Giorgio Armani for a global tour of the famed 1980s street artist, Richard Hambleton.

Vladimir wears primarily black, chic, minimalist, fitted, high quality staples. Think Hedi Slimane for Dior black jeans and American Apparel tshirts for day, Armani suits and Martin Margiela coats for night. Like his mother, Carine Roitfeld, whose personal style reflects a brilliant twist of two extremes, the bourgeois and the provocative, Vladimir likes to wear classic clothes with an edgy twist. This would explain his penchant for the designer, Rei Kawakubo. It all makes perfect sense. Rei Kawakubo established the fashion label Comme des Garçons (or “like the boys” in English) in 1973 in Tokyo, starting with womenswear and then adding a menswear line in 1978. Her designs first enjoyed a surge in popularity in the 1980s. With her strong, austere silhouettes, dark color palette, asymmetry, and frayed, unfinished edges, Rei Kawakubo became recognized for challenging established notions of beauty. The Barneys woman had been deconstructed… and she liked it.

The Comme des Garçons success has grown steadily ever since. Much of Rei Kawakubo’s work has been described as avant-garde, and upon viewing many of her collections — most notably her notorious 1997 “Lumps & Bumps,” in which swollen goosedown-filled Quasimodo-like bumps distorted the body shape and shocked even the most jaded fashion mavens — no one would disagree. In fact, we could describe Rei Kawakubo’s work as the bleeding edge of avant-garde, at times, and no one would disagree.

However, Rei Kawakubo also designs more commercial garments, not exactly mainstream, but commercial. And while Vladimir will probably never don a Quasimodo jacket, we can expect to see him in a more subtly edgy Comme des Garçons piece, including many of the garments shown on the runway for Spring 2012. The menswear theme for Spring is “tailoring for punks.” Sharp tailoring, classic houndstooth, and Prince of Wales check is rendered punk with biker zips and slashes. The collection is conceptual and idiosyncratic with subtle, unexpected touches to suit a nonconformist gallerist with a penchant for modern art.

Rei Kawakubo photographs courtesy of Flickr, Tumblr, Comme des Garçons, and Opening Ceremony. All Rights Reserved.

Reader Comments (5)

Wonderful! Have always loved Comme des Garcons - what a treat to learn more about Kawakubo, the creative force behind it!
15 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee
Very informative and good choice of images.
15 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Comme de Garcons pour filles I prefer :-)
16 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
fabulous article, kate! I have always loved comme des garçon so this was a pleasure to read! rei kawakubo is so ahead of her time...thank you for sharing all this wonderful information!
16 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdara block
she is amazing!
25 janvier 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjane

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