Anna Wintour Gets Happy. Will She Kiss the Girl?

by Kristopher Fraser Photographed by Anna Wintour
Friday, October 21, 2016

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that the next exhibit for the Costume Institute after Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion will be Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons on view from May 4 to September 4, 2017. Next year’s Met Ball will take place on May 1. The evening’s co-chairs will be Katy “I Kissed a Girl” Perry, Pharrell “Happy” Williams, and Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo will serve as Honorary Chair.

The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.The event will be preceded by what was described by Vogue contributing editor Andre Léon Talley as “the Super Bowl of fashion”: The Met Ball. Of course, that is also the event that should probably be known as Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour‘s other child.

Hopefully this year the guests at the Met Gala won’t arrive looking like an engineer’s failed science project. (It was called Manus x Machina, not Mr. Roboto, please spare my eyes.)

The exhibit will be presented in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the second floor. The focus of the exhibit, aside from being just about Rei Kawakubo‘s incredible designs, will be about her fascination with interstitially, or the space between boundaries. Existing within and between entities—self/other, object/subject, fashion/anti-fashion—Kawakubo’s work challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and, ultimately, fashionability. Not a traditional retrospective, the thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.


Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), “Body Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body,” spring/summer 1997. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Paolo Roversi


Should we take this moment to remember that Kawakubo is the woman who took an oversized black biker jacket, put saddle stitching on the seams then paired this aforementioned bodice with a tutu. Don’t think just because that outfit went down the runway in 2004 that it has been forgotten.

Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton must be having a very difficult time with this particular exhibit, because despite his immense talent, how do you select the most daring and revolutionary pieces from a designer who is out-of-the-box with every look possible. What the master will come up with is sure to wow us all, as per usual. The exhibition will feature approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first Paris runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection.

Organized thematically rather than chronologically, the examples will examine Kawakubo’s revolutionary experiments in interstitially or “in-betweenness”—the space between boundaries. By situating her designs within and between dualities such as East/West, male/female, and past/present, Kawakubo not only challenges the rigidity and artificiality of such binaries, but also resolves and dissolves them. To reflect this, mannequins will be arranged at eye level with no physical barriers, thereby dissolving the usual distance between objects on display and museum visitors.

“In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and ceo of The Met. “Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Bolton. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.”

Visit the Met’s website at



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