May, the first, 2017. Celebrities, models and designers are stepping into the most famous red carpet of New York: the annual MET Gala, aimed at raising funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city. Every year, tons of familiar faces go through the overwhelming experience of respecting a specific dress code. Isn’t a designer gown enough of a dress code for the red carpet, you might ask if you’re not familiar with the MET Gala. Because this enormous event also stands for something bigger: the opening of a major exhibition at the Costume Institute. This year, the museum honors Rei Kawakubo in ‘’Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.’’ And guess what: the dress code was hardly respected.
Americans don’t understand Comme des Garçons
Or was it hardly understood? Rei Kawakubo could easily be dubbed ‘’the maker of today’s fashion.’’ Alongside with Kenzo Takada (Kenzo) and Yohji Yamamoto, they changed the perception that the West had about fashion in the 80s by taking their brands and aesthetics to Paris. With new proportions and patterns, an ancestor of the mix’n’match, lengths and volumes, they curated a totally new visual environment that set the foundations of many designers’ careers. Kawakubo’s playful and conceptual aesthetics came at a time when France was seeing an over-sexualized woman, a warrior of sensuality, on the catwalks of the likes of Montana and Thierry Mugler.
Photos: Vogue. Click for the collection’s date.
Comme des Garçons is the cubism of fashion just like Schiaparelli was the surrealism of fashion. It resonates in many minds for it always brings something totally innovative – some might call it insane – with inspirations and aspirations bigger than words. Just like your reflection in the mirror what you see in Comme des Garçons is highly personal. However, despite this individual approach to Kawakubo’s work, there are a few facts that are universal: the visual codes of Comme des Garçons are not of your regular red carpet gown and having Rei Kawakubo as a ball theme, boy, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occasion to cut it loose and play the wildest cards of your fashion deck.
But your favorite Victoria’s Secret angels probably didn’t fully read the invitation. Or is it that they don’t know who Rei Kawakubo is? When I woke up this morning to find the Vogue slide of the soirée’s looks I was super excited to see pans of fabrics flying in the air, dark tulle coming out of unexpected places, large outfits that look as though they were sewn in clouds. And much more wowing sartorial performances. But all I saw was ignorance. Or disrespect. I would rather the former. Are we French more familiar to Kawakubo’s legacy?
Back to the late 70s/early 80s when Japanese designers came to Paris to seek expansion. Close to 40 years later, these names are now part of our environment, we appropriate Japanese fashion as a familiar art, something we relate to easily. And maybe Americans don’t? (Yes Kendall Jenner, I’m talking about you). This aesthetic of playful experiments has been brought to the American landscape several times though. Thom Browne is one of Kawakubo’s heirs in that he constructs in fashion not like clothing but like sculptures and pieces of art. Some of the MET gala attendees who respected the rules proudly wore his work.
Rei Kawakubo never made a Disney movie
Photos: Vogue. Tap for details.
You don’t have to wear Comme des Garçons to reference the work of Rei Kawakubo. You just have to avoid mermaid gowns (that’s for you Blake Lively), Spice Girl stage outfits (No, Gwyneth, you can’t attend a Comme des Garçons night out with a baby pink dress), or Disney princess gowns (thinking of you Taylor Hill). A classic house can also perfectly do the work. Chinese model Fei Fei Sun resorted to Alberta Ferretti yet found her way into the crowd.
The best surprise of the night? H&M. Or custom H&M. Which saved the looks of Ashley Graham and Jourdan Dunn. The awareness of Dunn was all the more obvious next to her friends: with Behati Prinsloo going for a Topshop wedding dress of the 90s, Joan Smalls wearing another Topshop creation which had more slits and glitters than Comme des Garçons references, Selena Gomez and her all-American Coach luxury bridesmaid dress, or Karlie Kloss in her very corporate Carolina Herrera black and white mini-dress, Dunn appeared highly conscious of what fashion is about today.
Photos : Vogue. Tap for details.
Is the MET Gala another contract
Let’s focus on models here. Or on what we call models today: society girls who appear to be tall and beautiful. Deep inside, we always knew that red carpets were business. But has it always been that obvious? When you see a Kendall Jenner sporting a La Perla dress or whatever it is at an event that calls for smart tailoring and proportions, you’re prone to ask a lot of questions. Especially when it comes after Gigi Hadid stepped the red carpet in a golden Tommy Hilfiger dress a year after launching a special collection for the American brand. Now let’s play a little game: close your eyes and think about it, of the two pictures below, focus on each face and each dress. What do you see? Dollar bills (if you don’t, do it again until you do). We know about exclusivity, sponsoring contracts, and all this but did the MET Gala, a fundraising event for god’s sake, become Instagram too?
Photos: Vogue. Tap for details.
Money flows in the fashion industry and models receive more exposure than ever thanks to social medias. Of course brands would pay thousands if not billions to have their products promoted by the most sought-after model of the time. But shouldn’t this kind of events stay authentic given its nature? Remember, the MET Gala opens the annual exhibition at the Costume Institute, a tribute to a designer or a movement that was groundbreaking, that changed the way you dress and live. It’s even sadder to see how religiously previous themes were respected – then again, the crowd was not the same. When you ask models whose careers have been based on social media engagement and virtual money making, I guess you can’t expect them to embody a generation that is totally foreign to them. You can’t take away the financial power of these women, and in that they’re extremely relevant to our society: power girls making it big with high figures, encouraging little girls to study computers, doing charity works, we always need more of them. But to fashion, I’m not sure they can bring something. Especially given that the current years are that of change for fashion, that of creating a more responsible future based on solid foundations that, if not properly understood, might collapse. That’s something we can discuss (see below).
The biggest regret I have is that Rei Kawakubo had to see this (she’s the only one, with Yves Saint Laurent, to be honored with an exhibition at the Costume Institute in life).
Scroll below for other looks that paid the best tribute to the Comme Des Garçons legacy and for discussion.
Do you think that the tribe of Victoria’s Secret heiress models are relevant to the fashion industry? Do you think they have an understanding of what they are in? Let’s discuss in the comment section below or on Twitter. You can also subscribe to the blog for upcoming fashion and beauty discussions.