Watch: The clothes that made Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo queen of fashion’s avant-garde

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From her iconoclastic designs to Comme de Garçons’ pop-up “guerrilla stores,” Rei Kawakubo keeps tight control on every aspect of her clothing line. Everything except one thing: what you’re supposed to make of them.

“Creation does not end with just the clothes,” Kawakubo told the New York Times, in an interview at the brand’s the fortieth anniversary. The clothes, once sent into the world, speak for themselves.

Kawakubo’s work is the focus of the the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2017 exhibition. It’s only the second time a living designer has been selected.

Since her debut Paris show in 1981 (though Kawakubo was was already a well-established designer in Japan), Kawakubo has managed to consistently ignore and shock the fashion world at the same time. She used black when everyone else was splashing their clothes with color, left garments seemingly unfinished, and morphed the human body into strange, unnatural shapes—lumpy one year, flat another.

“From the very beginning, she was always about upending these normative conventions of beauty,” said Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. “She just challenged us to think about the body in different ways, and showed that fashion itself has no bounds.”