Rei Kawakubo is a Tokyo-based designer and founder of the Japanese fashion label Comme des Garcons (“like some boys”). Season after season, collection after collection, she upends conventional notions of beauty and disrupts accepted characteristics of the fashionable body. “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between” examines nine expressions of “in-betweenness”: Absence/Presence; Design/Not Design; Fashion/Antifashion; Model/Multiple; High/Low; Then/Now; Self/Other; Object/Subject; and Clothes/Not Clothes. It reveals how her designs occupy the spaces between these dualities – which have come to be seen as natural rather than social or cultural – and how they resolve and dissolve binary logic.

“I felt I should be doing something more directional, more powerful… I decided to start from zero, from nothing, to do things that had not been done before, things with a strong image.” This rupture established Kawakubo as the archetypal modernist designer, whose pursuit of originality became the defining characteristic of every subsequent collection.

“My clothes and the spaces they inhabit are inseparable – they are one and the same. They convey the same vision, the same message, and the same sense of values.”

“I wasn’t limited to the confines of a pattern. Not being educated, not being taught how to design, I was able to visualize in a completely different context. And I still seem able to draw upon the unconventional.”

“Fashion is not art. You sell art to one person. Fashion comes in a series and it is a more social phenomenon.”

“From the beginning, I dispensed with any preconceived notions about Western and Eastern social mores and cultures, as all these things are irrelevant to my world… I deliberately cast away all questions of upbringing, nationality, sociology and the like.”

“Personally, I don’t care about function at all… When I hear ‘where could you wear that?’ or ‘it’s not very wearable’ or ‘who would wear that?’ to me it’s just a sign that someone missed the point.” “The right half of my brain likes tradition and history, the left wants to break the rules.” “I never give myself any boundaries or let them interfere with my work.”

Text adapted from The MET Exhibition guide