A key reason why I traveled to New York last week was to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new show-stopping exhibition. Rei Kawakubo is a legendary fashion designer who is also an artist. Her clothing lines all fall under the obscure Comme des Garçons label. Perhaps her artistry is where the designer begins. Yet, in the end, what she creates are clothes. This is only the second retrospective mounted by the Met to fête a living designer. As a result of seeing the exhibit, I’m certain that we need art in fashion. And, we must ensure this tradition lives on.
We need art in fashion to express ideas and to tell stories. The clothes shown in this exhibition seem to tell a story of life itself. Kawakubo is a septuagenarian who, clearly, took this exhibition extremely personally. Motifs about life prevailed, particularly about birth and death. It was poetic. Plus, clothes worn by humans on the catwalk take on a different look, feel, and context when viewed on mannequins. It’s a different experience studying the clothes that look so much more alive and animated. This is especially true of Kawakubo’s creations.
There are plenty of very wearable pieces, at least for an avant-garde sort of person. Not one piece exhibited has a look of common-sense practicality. But, designers like Kawakubo, and those of her ilk, aren’t trying to make what everyone else does. As a result, much of what onlookers review at the exhibit, and at her fashion shows, appear to be costume-like. They could even be purely seen and collected as art pieces, meant to be enjoyed on a mannequin.
We need art in fashion to communicate who we are as individuals. In an age where we generally celebrate individuality, many of her designs are one-of-a-kinds. Or, close to it. Not many people would dare to try to pull off the creations on view. But, if you were fortunate to have the purpose and place to do so, all eyes would be upon you. You might, like the designer, be working out some of your issues, and presenting yourself as you see life.
I believe that clothing as an art form, and at Kawakubo’s level of it, is not wasteful in the least. Her pieces prove that we need art in fashion because it’s what pushes forward new thinking. When we look at the clothes in the exhibit, we are, at once, puzzled and amused. We are mesmerized and have to ask the question: is it fashion or is it art?
We need art in fashion to promote the handmade and machine-made characteristics of clothes. Without ingenuity in fashion, the stitching and sewing all looks the same. Then, the result is a lack of variety, a lack of uniqueness. We have to encourage that old world techniques not fade into obscurity, just as we embrace technology to forge ahead. Artistry is how we learn more about the world through fashion and, in turn, we learn more about ourselves.
Personal style is, in itself, a true art form. Style is informed by the life you have lived, and by the life you desire yet to live. So, in the end, we need art in fashion to ensure that after all of the practicalities are met, we each look like the ideas that we speak. Fashion is that super amazing medium by which designers help us to tell our own stories, and theirs.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles. Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development.