Rei Kawakubo (born 1942) is widely acknowledged as one of the world's most original and influential fashion designers. She studied literature and fine arts at the University of Keio and worked for several years in an advertising department as a stylist before launching her women's wear line Comme des Garçons in Japan in 1969. Worldwide recognition followed her first Paris parade in 1981 which she presented with Yohji Yamamoto.
Right from the start of her career, Kawakubo has continually experimented with existing forms of dressing. Her early 1980s collections featured boiled black wool with frayed edges and holes that enveloped the body like a baggy multi functional piece of clothing. Another notable avant-garde collection presented in 1997 featured randomly placed bulges, creating humpbacks, crooked shoulders and wide hips. Much of her work has challenged many of the tenets of Western fashion. The innovative use of asymmetrical cut, worn textures, frayed edges and a palette of blacks made Kawakubo one of the most radical of avant-garde designers of the 1980s and 1990s.
These shoes were purchased to accessorize a Comme des Garçons outfit (Powerhouse Museum object number 2005/174/1). On viewing Kawakubo's Spring Summer 2005 collection, in which this outfit and shoes featured, the fashion journalist Sarah Mower reported: 'Take a huge, rough-hewn biker jacket, lash the seams with crude saddle stitching, and put it atop a delicate Swan Lake-worthy tutu. That was the startling collision of disparate elements at Comme des Garçons. "I thought about the power of the motorbike-the machine itself-and the strength of a ballet dancer's arms," Rei Kawakubo said. In other words, another chapter (Hell's Ballerinas, perhaps?) in her career-long philosophical investigation into women and strength. Kawakubo's explanation clarified why the dancers' stiff leather or neoprene jackets were cut with rolled-up sleeves, and how their openwork inserts mimicked the cooler vents in a motorcycle engine, and why curviform foam-rubber seat-covers sometimes morphed into skirts. Done in black, tan, or orange, the jackets had the heft of a truly cool idea and made a strangely beautiful contrast with the fragile pinks and whites of the tutus." ¹
In keeping with the biker-meets-ballet theme for this collection Kawakubo designed these ballet slipper style shoes worked in a shiny wet look leather. Their delicacy is contradicted by the boldness and practicality of the wide black elastic shoe strap.
1. (Style.com. http://www.style.com/fashionshows/collections/S2005RTW/review/CMMEGRNS)
Curator Decorative Arts and Design