he theme for the 2017 Met Gala – an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, as well as the opening party for its principal fashion exhibition – was Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons, meaning the fashion calendar’s most glamorous event packed a seriously avant-garde punch this year. Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, who founded Comme des Garçons, is the first living designer to be the sole subject of the museum’s legendary fashion exhibition since Yves Saint Laurent in 1983.
Famous for pushing fashion boundaries, the 74-year-old has been challenging accepted notions of beauty for 40 years. It was a tricky theme to pull off, but the stars rose to the occasion and, for the most part, successfully rocked some radical looks.
Kylie Jenner was breathtaking in a custom-made, fully beaded rose-gold gown with 3D floral accents and Swarovski crystal fringing by Atelier Versace. Halle Berry also looked flawless in bespoke Atelier Versace, wearing a sheer black catsuit with a voluminous train featuring gold scalloped detail – a dramatic look accessorized with Atelier Swarovski double-stud ‘Kalix’ earrings. Cassie wore an extravagant Perpetual Motionblack dress from On Aura Tout Vu’s Fall/Winter 2016/17 collection, with a flamboyant skirt created from 10,000 black tubes embroidered all over with pearls and crystals; she accessorized it with a crystallized Judith Leiber Couture minaudière. (Also seen carrying glittering Judith Leiber Couture minaudières were Jennifer Lopez, Blake Lively and Naomi Watts.) Thandie Newton stepped into the spotlight in a flame-red one-sleeve custom Monse gown shimmering with Swarovski crystals. Joan Smalls stood out in a red silk-crêpe gown from Topshop with a thigh-high slit, plunge neckline and gunmetal Swarovski crystal-studded body contour panels. Sasha Lane wore a futuristic custom H&M dress and hair accessories, both decorated with Swarovski crystals, while Nicki Minaj also rocked in custom H&M – a knockout regal gown with a kimono-style top and sweeping train. Hailey Baldwin completed her contemporary pastel-colored tulle ensemble with a romantic Swarovski crystal-studded veil by Gigi Burris.
Add then there was the nail art—we’re talking epic manicures that perfectly captured the avant-garde theme. Intricate, crystallized looks that deserve special mention include Selena Gomez, whose manicure was created by Tom Bachik, and Kiko Mizuhara, whose fingertips were adorned by Eichi Matsunaga. Katy Perry’s show-stopping nail art came courtesy of Sarah Nguyen, and her arresting makeup, with its smoky Ultra Violet eye shadow, was applied by the doyenne of makeup artistry, Pat McGrath. For Cara Delevingne’s dramatic sci-fi look, Romy Soleimani painted Cara’s head silver (shaven for her upcoming film, Life in a Year) and dusted it with Swarovski crystals in delicate contrast to her heavily embellished, futuristic Chanel pantsuit. Outrageous and elegant in equal measure.
Each celebrity went to considerable lengths to pay tribute to Rei Kawakubo, whose revolutionary designs have undoubtedly influenced the way we dress. Her clothing explores the space between boundaries, and the exhibition has been curated around nine aesthetic expressions that illustrate this sensibility: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject and Clothes/Not Clothes. She breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness, while rethinking the female body and feminine identity in a way that has come to be seen as a kind of anti-fashion glamour. See it, if you possibly can.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, until September 4, 2017.
Joan Smalls: Rob LaTour/REX/Shutterstock
Cara Delevingne (red carpet image): Courtesy of Rimmel London
Cara Delevingne (BTS image): Photo credit: Romy Soleimani