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Rei Kawakubo’s Contribution to Boyhood

Designer Rei Kawakubo

Admist centuries of hyper-masculinity, men are taught to be dominating forces and are deterred from anything deemed effeminate or emotional.

This expectation is highly unrealistic and breeds a society that is relentless, unforgiving and essentially toxic. Even from a young age, masculine expecations are instilled impacting generations upon generations. However, the younger years tend to be more lenient and forgiving.

The expectations of manhood are not yet prominent; there is more freedom allowed for the adolescent youth. A strong emphasis and flasback to these times is brought forth through the designs of Rei Kawakubo. Through fashion, male youth is re-explored and reinforced by its positive sentiments.

Rei Kawakubo is one of many designers who pushes the boundaries of normalcy, creating an abstraction of our perceptions onto the designs she makes.

Recent designs for Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Fall 2018 portray the spark of energy and childhood nostalgia through various comic, superhero prints and masks.

These designs incorporate the free-spirit of childish boyhood and act as a form of protection from the serious, aggressive manhood.

Rei Kawakubo’s designs critique the formality and restraint that young boys are pushed into, as they grow older. The collection attempts to reconnect with the non-hyper masculine past many boys have experienced. Adulthood and boyhood have a very divided line — Kawakubo helps break the boundary between the two to let us cross in order to experience childhood.

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus (opening look)
Comme des Garçons Homme Plus (look seven)

Kawakubo’s ability to tell a story is integral to this collection.

The mystical masks bring childhood memories to life. The variety of prints add to the storyline. Fabrics created by Shimoda Masakatsu aid her in her creative process. The comic book patterns emphasize Kawakubo’s physical-format of storytelling. Cracked fabric manipulation and brick prints bring the concrete jungle to life. The explorative nature of youth is imbedded in the clothes themselves, leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

These designs are integral not only to the world of fashion, but to our current society, in which men are taught to encompass traits that are detrimental to themselves and the world around them.

By exploring years filled with love, passion and imagination, this submersion allows for a recall and lasting impact on today’s manhood. Through the various methods and designs of Kawakubo, she deters the imminent, aggressive manhood many boys are to face. Through this, we are able to hold on to boyhood just a bit longer — and maybe even bring it back.

Cover Image Courtesy of Designer Rei Kawakubo

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Written by Elina Arbo

Student Activist Coordinator for Amnesty International and local arts enthusiast