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

3 April – 30 August 2020

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 shows Elie's collection and lets 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

Opening statements from the Museum

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