Saturday, December 27, 2014

On (failing) to ask Rei Kawakubo what her favourite book is

I had the opportunity, once, to ask Rei Kawakubo a question. My question was "what are your favourite books?" and her answer on the sheet provided (her husband translated) was written as NO ANSWER, in caps (all her answers were written in caps, because Rei Kawakubo did Kanye before Kanye). This is partially due to my incompetence as an interviewer- is "what are your favourite books?" a good question? and partially due to my star-struck-shell-shocked self at being given the chance to ask the famous Ms. Kawakubo a question. I still think "what are your favourite books?" is a good question, because it seems so harmless. Most candidates will answer one of the hundred or so 'classics' which litter best-of lists with the reassuring predictability that best-of movie lists declare Citizen Kane the best film, like, ever, even though I am quite sure the number of people who have actually seen Citizen Kane decreases with every day, as the people who have seen it progressively die off. In twenty years the best-of lists will declare Fargo to be the best film ever. They are probably right.

There are multiple possible reasons we can gleam from Ms. Kawakubo's refusal to answer: perhaps she does not even read, per se, at all, merely absorbs the content of whatever book she is interested in by some form of osmosis, and in a library is confronted by the sheer bulk of knowledge that it all blends into some ultra-book, where Joyce meets Atwood meets Mahy. Perhaps she refuses all forms of media, in order to incubate herself from outside forms of interference (a more sophisticated version of wearing a tin-foil hat). Perhaps she thought my question was stupid and pointless and not worth answering. I am certain it was the last answer.

It is a banal question, though unintentionally revealing. Yohji Yamamoto has talked about The Family of Man being one of his favourite books. Once you connect Steichen to Yamamoto, all kinds of connections begin to appear: the worn-in, 'dusty' everyday feeling Steichen captures so well. Yamamoto's coats, with their odd proportions and heavy duty fabrics take on a logic beyond their stylistic lexicon. It's as if grandpa Yohji is trying to capture the broadness of the whole world. Or as Steichen puts it: "If the human face is “the masterpiece of God” it is here then in a thousand fateful registrations."

I don't know if I knew what Yamamoto's favourite book was when I asked submitted the question. Yamamoto's answer helped me understand his clothes better; in the same way, Kawakubo's answer did too. NO ANSWER explains Kawakubo's mindset perfectly, just as Family of Man explains Yamamoto's. I should've asked what her favourite pizza was.

2 comments:

Zilero said...

Wow, I just purchased one of grandpa Yamamoto's many registrations: a pair of Y3 Chelsea boots. Glad to see Karl's back. I missed that sternly disapproving Franco-Germanic drawl playing back in my head.

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