If you’ve ever wandered across the streets of one of the major fashion capitals during fashion weeks and come across a beautifully stylish woman wearing Commes Des Garçons, turns out you might’ve stumbled into Michelle Elie.
The Haitian yet formerly New York-based designer, stylist and former model, is indeed considered to be one of the most popular fans of the Japanese brand - to the point she has even just recently transformed her extensive wardrobe into an exhibition.
The exhibition, called ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me: Michelle Elie wears Commes Des Garçons’ opened on April 3rd at the Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst, which is not only known to be one of the works of renown American architect Richard Meier but is also known for showcasing an exhibition featuring Jil Sander in 2018.
However, this isn’t the first of Elie’s ventures in exhibition and curation. In 2018, she set up an exhibition during Art Koln called ‘The Misfits,’ a private and by appointment showcase of her personal collection held at Gallery Pop;68, in her new hometown of Cologne. It was then that she realised she had such an extensive collection of clothes from the brand.
“I bought my very first CDG piece back in 1995 while living in NYC. I still have it. I love the brand because of Kawakubo’s vision and its renewed commitment to keep pushing creativity while still running a business,” states Elie. “Wearing CDG makes you feel like you’re a force of nature. I get so much energy and inspiration from each of the collections. The brand not only has given me the possibility of putting together this incredible exhibition, but it has also given my family, especially my boys, another outlook on not just fashion but a way of life. Commes Des Garçons is a philosophy, a way of life, it is more than just a fashion statement,” she continues.
Collaborating with Dr Mahret Ifeoma Kupka, a renown curator with a PHD exploring the relationship between fashion and the arts, Elie put together an exhibition which not only expressed her love and devotion for the brand but also explored her personal relationship with clothing, how fashion can challenge cultural norms in a social context and how, in particular, Rei Kawakubo’s label has done this over time, by playfully and lustfully disturbing the male gaze guided by Western ideals of beauty.
This was illustrated by the mannequins created for the exhibition, as Elie explains: “My curator wanted the mannequins to represent me not just the clothes. They started quite challenging process to recreate all fifty-five mannequins to have my exact features and skin colour.”
Following a path showcasing Elie’s extensive collection which is accompanied by its own sound installation, the exhibition also features two films that document Elie’s life during fashion week and at home, directed by Gianluca Matarrese, as well as seven years of street style images featuring Elie wearing CDG.
Although, for the time being, the exhibit and the events organised in association with it have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Elie isn’t worried as the exhibition will open again once all of this will be over.
After all, the title of the exhibit says it all and it is a heartwarming mantra which all of us should keep in mind.
“Fear tends to keep us from our dreams. It is natural and normal to have fear but we must do it anyhow with fear and be done with it,” concludes the designer.
Photo courtesy of Nick Leuze