Kawakubo Contemplates Poussin

I got these cards last week on sale for $3.82: they are the Fashion Face-Off Trump Card Game, which has a silly-ish game attached to it but I love the illustrations by Erin Petson and the idea of iconic moments in fashion shown on 30 cards.

To start off I chose a random passage from the book The Artist’s Mentor: Inspiration from the World’s Most Creative Minds, edited by Ian Jackman.

This is a quote by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) who believed that painters should confine themselves to spectacular, ennobling subjects like battles or the divine or heroic. Not just a bowl of fruit for Poussin!

“The painter is required to exercise not only art in giving form to his matter, but judgment in appraising it, and he must choose a subject that will naturally admit of every ornament and perfection. Those who elect mean subjects take refuge in them because of the weakness of their talents.”

To pair with this I chose a random card:

COMME DES GARÇONS – Spring Summer 1997 – This dress explored creative director Rei Kawakubo’s notion that ‘where the body and dress meet they become one’.


Might I extrapolate and say the human body naturally admits every ornament and perfection when thus showcased? Mmmm, maybe not in this collection.

Rei and her husband own Comme des Garçons, which means “Like Boys” in French, and their Spring Summer 1997 collection seems to have had a rather unfortunate propensity for placing lumps and rolls of batting in the clothes, making people look hunched or like they were growing gigantic tumours.

I’ve always found outré unwearables to be pointless. If you’re showing a collection, make them wearable. I am tempted to say these are mean subjects, that she took refuge in them because of the weakness of her talent, but in fashion this doesn’t hold true. Many fine designers do these god-awful runway shows with weird statement pieces and goofy sculptural designs that no one would wear. Why? I don’t know, it is hardly ennobling design to provide this sort of spectacle, but I imagine it’s fun to believe you are breaking trends and being artsy.

For me, it’s attracting attention for the wrong reason. When does “groundbreaking” become goofy? Right here. The Costume Museum at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the dresses from this collection. Some people refer to this as the “bump” collection.

This is a photo of this dress on the runway. It has a roll over the hip and down the leg on the left as you look at it, and a strangulated wrap over the bodice area between the shoulders. Some of her inspiration for the rolls might have come from the classic Japanese obi, I don’t know. This dress is one of the more pleasing examples from this collection, other designs had more exaggerated rolls and bumps.

I love the way the sketch on the card captures this fabric without outlining every check.


Here we are talking about it eighteen years later; maybe that’s what it was all about, being memorable? Reminding me of Poussin and his Adoration of the Golden Calf. “Compare and contrast” as we say in history, with Rei Kawakubo and her bump collection.

Here is a bit more on Rei Kawakubo from Wikipedia.




5 thoughts on “Kawakubo Contemplates Poussin

  1. Ha ha, definitely “unwearable”! I’m more of a tees and jeans gal, myself. Funny, the quote is lovely, but wouldn’t make me think of battle scenes at all!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s