Comme des Garons in 1992. Photograph: Ken Towner/ANL/Rex/Shutterstock
A red carpet dressed in Comme des Garons will be a different story. Notable collections include the brands all-black Paris debut. Dubbed Hiroshima chic by some critics, it contrasted wildly with the OTT glamour emerging in the 80s. This was followed by the Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress collection in 1997, where dresses came with extra lumps and bumps beyond those on the body of their wearer, and an autumn/winter 2012 collection, where clothes were designed to look two-dimensional. All were in some way in opposition to the state of fashion, with the 2012 collection a comment on how fast fashion has given a throwaway feel to the wider industry. The exhibition promises 120 designs all on mannequins at eye level, displayed without glass.
While her designs are esoteric, Kawakubo with her husband Adrian Joffe, who acts as president of the Comme des Garons group has made an empire over 40-plus years in fashion. There are perfumes, T-shirts and shirts under the Comme des Garons umbrella. This results in an annual turnover of around 204m, flagships in New York London and Tokyo, and the huge Dover Street Market store in Haymarket in London, which sells all of the Comme des Garons lines plus brands ranging from Cline to Palace. Kawakubo is also shrewd: working with alum Junya Watanabe to set up his own line, and helping fashions current bright young thing, Gosha Rubchinskiy, by operating his business. With Comme des Garons backing, Rubchinskiys label has grown 350% over the past year. Arguably, Kawakubos success is cold, hard proof that creativity and commercialism can co-exist in fashion. This exhibition pays tribute to that achievement.