When we speak about the design period of the 80s, one name regularly crops up: Rei Kawakubo. Although repeated numerous times in the press and contemporary publications, the furniture that she designed at this period, with very few pieces manufactured, is less common today and remains totally unknown. Fascinated by this outstanding work, for its first monographic exhibition A1043 will present a set of fifteen pieces produced during the ten years of circulation of the furniture.
Concerned with the presentation of her clothes and everything surrounding them, Rei Kawakubo designed fixtures and fittings for the Comme des Garçons shops. For her everything is connected, the district in which the shop is located, the clothes, the layout and the furniture of course. Her furniture should therefore be considered part of the complete work. The first pieces of furniture were initially designed as an extension of the shop fixtures. The first examples are the steel angle chair n°1 and table n°3 from 1983. Between 1983 and 1993 Rei Kawakubo designed forty or so models, mainly seats and several tables and screens.
Just as she would say that she was not interested in fashion, Rei Kawakubo is not interested in design. For her the main research priorities of designers such as increasing the comfort, the method of production or the implementation of the materials are not discussed. As she explained, her furniture is a kind of secondary furniture; furniture used in places of transit and that generate an image, an ambiance. Furniture that is not necessarily used, the main function of which is to bring a design and a type of material to an environment. In the same way as for clothes, the production of Comme des Garçons furniture results from a specific choice. The materials used may be conventional, mainly wood and metal, but their treatment is not insignificant. Wood may be natural but it is sanded and free of varnish, metal is blasted then galvanized and aluminium is mounted on wood. The result is an original approach, beyond all convention and without emotion straightforward.
Rei Kawakubo’s furniture lies between function and image at odds with the aesthetics that were predominant at the time of its creation, particularly by Italians from the Alchimia then Memphis groups gathered around the mentor Ettore Sottsass. The furniture had urban almost brutal aesthetics, requiring an effort from its users, a sensitive or even intellectual approach. Can we still talk about furniture? Is it not more sculpture? None of this perhaps, but more of a questioning: what is furniture?
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