Life doesn't frighten me Michelle Elie wears Comme des Garçons

3 April 2020 – 3 January 2021

Michelle Elie, Paris, 2014 © Phill Taylor

Clothing becomes fashion through cultural context. The Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo founded her fashion label Commes des Garçons in 1969 in a strictly patriarchal Japan. To this day, her aim is not to please, but to playfully and lustfully disturb the male gaze guided by Western ideals of beauty. Kawakubo breaks the conventions of fashion design by deconstructing, shifting, destroying, and bulging forms without regard towards the body’s silhouette. Her wearers appropriate the clothing, bring them to life in their own contexts, not without causing a stir. CdG contradicts the norm, stands out and often provokes.

Designer and fashion icon Michelle Elie loves, collects and lives Kawakubo’s designs passionately – at the international fashion weeks she regularly visits and in her everyday life in Cologne. The Museum Angewandte Kunst showed Elie’s collection and let her tell the stories behind the pieces herself: From the moment of discovery, to the acquisition, to the experience on her own body and the various reactions that wearing them provokes in others. “Life doesn’t frighten me,” says the Haitian-born artist, and in fact it takes a little courage to wear Kawakubo and thus clearly position oneself against social norms. As a black woman in a white majority society of Europe with her corresponding notions of beauty, Elie’s sheer existence bursts all norms. With CdG on her body, she self-confidently exaggerates her body experiences and thus challenges viewers to reflect on their own body experiences.

Curator: Dr. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka

Online premiere of The Fashion Teller and Sittin’ in a Cloud

Two short films from the exhibition Life doesn’t frighten me. Michelle Elie wears Comme des Garçons

“I am convinced that there is the right occasion for every dress and that you wear it just when you feel the need to wear it. I always rely on my gut.” – Michelle Elie wears her Comme des Garçons look with courage, attracts attention and thus clearly positions herself against social norms.

In the films The Fashion Teller and Sittin’ in a Cloud director Gianluca Matarrese accompanies Michelle Elie on her visits to the Paris Fashion Weeks. We see Elie, who now sits in the front row at many fashion shows, in her element and in interaction with models and – last but not least – the fulfilment of a long-awaited dream: a meeting with her personal heroine, Rei Kawakubo.

Film still from "The Fashion Teller" by Gianluca Matarese

The Fashion Teller

A film by Gianluca Matarrese
Music and sound by Cantautoma

Sittin' in a Cloud

A film by Gianluca Matarrese
Music and sound by Cantautoma

Opening statements from the Museum

With Prof. Matthias Wagner K, Dr. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka and Michelle Elie

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