Whether you work in fashion or are just an overly enthusiastic fan of the medium, the month of May can only mean one thing – it’s Met Gala season. For those who don’t understand what all of the sartorial hubbub is about, this is essentially the biggest couture party of the year where celebs and designers get together ostensibly to celebrate The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest Costume Institute exhibit, but really to show one another up in their custom, otherworldly gowns on the red carpet. And this year the black tie fête should be even more over-the-top than usual as these A-listers prepare themselves to honor Comme des Garçons Creative Director Rei Kawakubo. If that name leaves you scratching your head in confusion, you’re not the only one. Allow us to explain why this exhibit and its gala red carpet is set to be unlike any other you’ve ever seen.
First things first, who is Rei Kawakubo?
Long story short, she is the famously mysterious, tight-lipped creative director of the visionary, conceptual couture house Comme des Garçons. Her first show in Paris was in 1981 where she broke with the super-wide shoulders, neon bright colors, and pussy bow blouses that defined the era, presenting instead a decidedly darker, more stripped-down aesthetic. Ever since then, the Japanese-born designer’s work has favored the avant-garde over wearability, often exploring clothing’s relationship to the body, warping and distorting the human form through sharp angles, bulbous protrusions or Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-like proportions.
While the pieces she shows on the runway can be rather extreme, pushing the boundaries of abstract design and presenting a dogmatic adherence to her own unique vision, many of the elements that have become her signature have actually trickled down to the mainstream, such as unfinished hems, elaborate draping, and asymmetrical and deconstructed silhouettes.
And the label’s younger sister brand CDG Play has also found enormous success, becoming an instant streetwear icon thanks to its pre-emoji heart with eyes logo, and tell-tale polka dot and striped patterns. CDG Play pieces have been spotted on the backs of almost every celeb and hypebeast alike, and the brand also offers an array of semi-affordable cult-favorite products like wallets and fragrances, not to mention their new, instantly sold-out collaboration line with Supreme.
This is only the second time in history the museum has done a retrospective honoring a living designer.
The only other recipient to receive the living legend treatment from the New York institution was Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. Kawakubo, however, seems hardly impressed by the honor. In an extremely rare interview with Lynn Yaeger on behalf of Vogue, the designer says of being given this recognition, “It’s a halfway thing. It’s like something on the road to something — it’s not a final thing. There’s no guarantee. . . . Maybe after the Met I won’t be able to make anything? Maybe the company will go down; I’m not sure.” In other words, Rei’s not exactly an optimist when it comes to her own storied career.
The Met Gala red carpet is going to look very different this year.
When speaking of the designer’s most recent collection, Yaeger says it gave the impression of models being, “swaddled in bulbous, undulating layers, rendered in what could be insulation material or tinfoil or a substance reminiscent of a brown paper bag,” constituting a collection, “Closer perhaps to performance art than fashion show, these living sculptures elicit a wide range of emotions—from wild applause, even tears, to bewilderment bordering on annoyance.” So it will be interesting to see what celebs actually show up wearing, whether they’ll fully embrace the sometimes cartoonish, extravagant proportions in honor of the evening, or stick with their tried-and-true red carpet fare of slinky gowns and nearly-nude dresses.
The exhibit itself will also be very unusual.
The Met has given complete creative control to Kawakubo and her team, allowing them to transform the Costume Institute space and transform it into, as head curator Andrew Bolton puts it, “an austere, all-white maze hosting approximately 150 Comme ensembles.” The designer of the hour adds, “It’s a Met show for Comme des Garçons, not a Comme des Garçons show at the Met.”
Rei might not even show up, and if she does, don’t expect some grand entrance.
When asked by Yaeger what she plans to wear to the gala, Kawakubo, “shakes her head and says she’s not going. ‘Yes, you are going!’ Joffe [her husband and president of CDG and Dover Street Market] tells her. ‘You don’t have to stand on the red carpet, but you have to go to the dinner!’ In that case, she says, she will wear what she is wearing now—what she wears every day—a miniature leather biker jacket and a long plaid skirt.”
At least this year no one will feel underdressed when even the designer being honored is flagrantly ignoring the dress code.
Are you excited for this year’s Gala? Will you be going to the Met exhibit? Sound off below!