Clothing becomes fashion through a cultural context. Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo founded her fashion label Comme des Garçons in 1969. To this day, it is not about pleasing her, but rather about playfully and lustfully disrupting the male gaze guided by Western ideals of beauty. Kawakubo breaks the conventions of editing by deconstruction, displacement, destruction and bulges regardless of body shapes. Wearers appropriate the objects of clothing, bring them to life in their own contexts, not without causing a stir. Comme des Garçons contradicts the norm, stands out and often provokes.
Designer and fashion icon Michelle Elie loves, collects and lives Kawakubo’s designs passionately – on the international fashion week, which she visits regularly, and in her everyday life in Cologne. The Museum of Applied Arts shows Elie’s collection and lets them tell the stories of the respective pieces themselves: from the moment of discovery, through acquisition, to experiencing on your own body and the most diverse reactions that the wearing provokes others. “Life doesn’t frighten me,” says the Haitian-born woman, and courage is part of wearing Kawakubo and clearly positioning yourself against social norms. As a black woman in a white majority society with her corresponding notions of beauty, Elie is already defying all norms through her mere being. With Comme des Garçons on her body, she confidently exaggerates her body experiences and thus challenges viewers to reflect on their own body experiences.
Curator: Dr. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka
Museum Angewandte Kunst