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Comme des Garcons Orlando Opera at Vienna Opera house
via Instagram (@commedesgarcons)

Rei Kawakubo costumed an opera performance of Orlando

Taking place at the Vienna Opera House, the show marks the Japanese designer’s first time designing costumes

Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo is taking her boundary-pushing pieces to the opera, by designing the costumes for a new interpretation of the 1928 Virginia Woolf novel Orlando. With the book based around a genderqueer, time-travelling protagonist, the themes pair seamlessly with Kawakubo’s own work, which ignores gender boundaries and timely trends. 

Having worked on the project since May, the theme of the book also informed the Comme des Garçons designer’s menswear presentation, which took place in June. Entitled Act 1, Kawakubo’s SS20 show saw models making their way down the runway in 17th Century ruffled collars and pearl jewellery. Later, Act 2 took place at the label’s SS20 womenswear presentation in Paris. The third and final act are the Orlando costumes themselves, which were brought to life by the Viennese opera’s cast this weekend. 

Obviously this is no ordinary opera, though. Intended to bring the creative medium and the novel itself into the 21st century, the costumes demonstrate a playful take on Orlando's original time period. In true Kawakubo style, oversized, heavily padded pieces distort the body, with clashing patterns seen throughout.

As directed by Olga Neuwirth, this is the first time in its 150-year-history the Vienna Opera House will stage a show by a woman. It is also Kawakubo's first time designing costumes, and, seemingly, it's likely to also be her last. When asked in an interview with the New York Times if she would do another Opera, she said simply: “probably not”. 

Orlando itself has been referenced countless times throughout popular culture, with the novel also set to be the central theme of the Met Gala and its subsequent exhibition in 2020

Revisit the Comme des Garçons’ SS20 show below.