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The Best Monday of the Year

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Who Is Rei Kawakubo, and Why Should You Care?

It’s the first Monday in May in New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute is about to unveil its big exhibit, the opening of which coincides with the Met Gala, the department’s annual fundraiser and fashion’s gaudiest party. While the Costume Institute’s shows typically focus on a deceased designer (Charles James, Alexander McQueen) or a wide-ranging concept (Manus x Machina, China: Through the Looking Glass), this year’s is all about one woman, vividly alive at 74: Rei Kawakubo.

You want to be in the right state of mind to look at Kawakubo’s clothes. I recommend being a little hungover or very sleep-deprived. Her clothes are as mismatched and difficult as you feel, which seems sympathetic. Motherly, even: Imagine swaddling yourself in witchy layers of black, a gingham dress forced into a bulging silhouette, or a glittering, transparent gown that cups the arms against the body. Their refusal to flatter might make you feel emo or gleeful, but you’ll definitely feel something.

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Kawakubo is the designer of Comme des Garçons, a brand that is at one end visceral and challenging — it’s what comes to mind when someone references avant-garde fashion — and at the other, uncomplicatedly commercial. Comme des Garçons has collaborated with Converse, Speedo, and H&M; its diffusion line, Play, sells basic $100 T-shirts and $290 sweatshirts recognizable by its logo, a cute cartoon heart with eyes. Kawakubo also runs Dover Street Market, a chain of whimsical concept stores that carry inventive labels including J.W. Anderson, Vetements, and Eckhaus Latta, as well as luxury mainstays like Proenza Schouler, Gucci, and Valentino.

Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe, her husband and business partner, are smart independent retailers, but it’s her game-changing high-fashion work that won her a retrospective at the Met.

“Kawakubo’s most radical challenge to the canons of Western tailoring lay in her cutting,” writes Judith Thurman in a 2005 New Yorker profile of Kawakubo. “Couturiers before her had experimented with asymmetry in the one-shouldered gown or the diagonal lapel, though they were still working from a balanced pattern with a central axis — the spine. She warped her garments like the sheet of rubber that my high-school physics teacher used to illustrate the curvature of space, and she skewed their seams or closures so that the sides no longer matched.”

Recent collections have included a dress shaped like a pancake, a cascade of floral ruffles with armor-like appendages, and a bulbous white garment that trapped the arms inside (worn with Nikes). Thurman describes the making of such garments as an “esoteric groping in the dark.” Kawakubo’s first set of instructions to her pattern makers might be as opaque as “a scribble, a crumpled piece of paper, or an enigmatic phrase such as ‘inside-out pillowcase.’”

Unlike designers who dive into celebrity and social media, Kawakubo often seems as hard to pin down as her designs. Plenty of details of her life are out there — she was born in Tokyo, started her career as a stylist, used to date the designer Yohji Yamamoto — but in interviews, she holds herself at a remove. If you want to know who Rei Kawakubo is, look to the clothes. Then look some more. —Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

Deal of the Day

Style, sustainability, and savings are crossing paths at ethical online boutique Galerie.LA, where through the end of the week, you can take 15% off everything using the exclusive code racked15. (Prices here reflect the discount.) Put together a summer office outfit with separates — we’d pair this wrap top ($187) with these vintage flared trousers (just $51!) — or pick up an easy all-white one-piece, like this shirtdress ($276.25) or this hella comfy-looking jumpsuit ($250.75), and add a single accessory, like this take on jacket earrings ($34).

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In the News

Did we mention that the Met Gala is today? We'll be here watching it all unfold, and you can follow along with us on Instagram, Twitter, or just the regular ol' website!  

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Memebox Is Officially No Longer Selling Korean Beauty Products
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The last five years have been tumultuous for K-beauty retailer Memebox, and it’s only going to get more chaotic from here. As of today, Memebox will no longer directly sell K-beauty products in the US. Instead, the site will be a clearinghouse for education, reviews, and product information — like a Tripadvisor for beauty, as the company noted in a press release.

When Memebox announced in March that it was discontinuing its loyalty program and would start sending shoppers to other sites for products when its own stock ran out, it was fairly obvious that it was getting out of the K-beauty retail game. With four private label house brands, the assumption was that maybe Memebox was going to focus its business solely on its own labels and stop selling other brands. That’s true, but not quite the whole story.

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Spring's Best Fragrances
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Spring officially starts in March, but it doesn't really feel like it until the beginning of May, when the sun's out (consistently — none of this April Showers business), the temperature heats up, and things start to smell, well, like spring. Flowers are in bloom, the grass is more green and more potent, and the air feels clean and fresh.

It makes sense, then, that one of the most exciting parts about the start of spring is discovering a new favorite perfume and deciding what you want to smell like for the next few months. Maybe it's also a time to shed any lingering memories from winter.

To suss out the best spring perfumes, we asked writers Rachel Syme and Helena Fitzgerald — the founders of the fragrance newsletter The Dry Down — for their most beloved seasonal opinions. Read on for six of their favorite scents, and the feelings, memories, and specific spring days each of them brings to mind.

See the whole list here>>

FREE STUFF ALERT! Wanna win a sample pack complete with all six scents? To enter, fill in this entry form and subscribe to Racked's newsletter (if you're not already subscribed). We'll be picking our six winners on Wednesday; stay tuned for an email from us to see if you've won. 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The Racked Spring Fragrance Giveaway starts on May 1, 2017 at 4:00pm ET and ends on May 2, 2017 at 11:59pm ET. Open only to eligible legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, alternative method of entry, odds of winning, prize details and restrictions, etc.  Void where prohibited or restricted by law.  Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.

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