Mistaking the 100-plus-person line outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday morning as one for museumgoers, a few out-of-towners found themselves out of luck, after a security guard explained the museum was closed to the public but open for a press preview.
More than 600 media types — an all-time high — turned out for the big reveal of The Costume Institute’s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: The Art of the In-Between.” Patrick Li, Eugene Tong, Cecilia Dean, Simon Doonan and Thom Browne filed through the futuristic design, while photographers and camera crews huddled around curator in charge Andrew Bolton.
Testimony to Kawakubo’s reputation of being a designer’s designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino, was among the first to take in the exhibit. After peering into one of the circular spheres to check out five designs from the fall 2016 “18th Century Punk” collection, he said, “It’s amazing. I have to say, I love her work. I am really impressed to see all of this beauty together.
“My impression [of the show] is not to have a sense of time. Everything can be yesterday, today and tomorrow. I like this idea of no time in fashion. This [show] is something that will last,” he said. “I feel quietly very touched by the sense of life — the sense that my fabric is birth, marriage and death. There is a sense of life in it.”
Having not met Kawakubo personally, Piccioli said he will be “very happy” to do so tonight. Valentino — as well as Condé Nast, Farfetch, H&M and Warner Bros. — provided financial support for the exhibition and benefit, as did lead sponsor Apple for the second year in a row. In his remarks, the Met’s outgoing director Thomas Campbell thanked all of the aforementioned, before introducing one of the Met Gala’s honorary chairs, Caroline Kennedy. Back in New York after three years as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Kennedy will praise Kawakubo for her “commitment to excellence and attention to detail.” Kennedy will share her Met Gala duties with Kawakubo, who was also at Monday’s event but characteristically remained low-key and silent. (Tonight’s co-chairs will be Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Anna Wintour.)
After praising Bolton and Campbell for designing for the here and now, Kennedy mentioned how when her children visited her in Japan, they counted on a trip to the Comme des Garçons store to see the latest and greatest. Kawakubo was commended by Kennedy, who told the crowd how she had once welcomed the designer to the U.S. Embassy in Japan and now was honored to be doing so in New York. The former First Daughter also noted how the exhibition has come along at a time in today’s world where each of us is considering how to stand for something. She was then ushered out the door with the other VIPs after a quick photo-op.
Had they exited through the Met Shop, adjacent to the exhibition in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, they would have found the exhibition catalogue by Bolton. Designed by Fabien Baron, the Yale University-published book showcases over 120 examples of Kawakubo’s women’s wear along with quotes from her about her creative process and aesthetic. It also features new work by such photographers as Craig McDean, Inez & Vinoodh and Paolo Roversi. Kawakubo designed that Met Shop in her black signature polka dots recast in a shade of The Met’s signature red.
As of Tuesday, The Met Store will have an exclusive retail assortment. The Met x CDG Pocket Shop will offer 11 exclusive Comme des Garçons products, including a new style of the iconic lace sweater from the fall 1982 collection, a NikeLab Air Pegasus 83 for Comme des Garçons sneaker, three unisex exhibition T-shirts, a staff coat, two tote bags, a set of enamel pins and two wallets. Additional exclusive products will be added throughout the run of the show, which goes from May 4 through Sept. 4. To complement the exclusive product offering, The Met Store will offer more than 100 products from the Comme des Garcons Play, Parfum, Wallet and Converse lines that include personal accessories, men’s and women’s apparel, footwear and fragrance.