Remembering Deborah Turbeville, Kindred Spirit to Comme des Garçons

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Women in the Woods, Vogue Italia, Montova, Italy, 1977. Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

Opening May 4 in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum’s Comme des Garçons retrospective, a new exhibition at the Staley-Wise Gallery in Soho revisits photos of Comme des Garçons clothing by the late fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville. Titled “Deborah Turbeville, 1977–1981,” the gallery show features three series of photos: Comme des Garçons, Women in the Woods, and The Glass House. In Comme des Garçons images, models wear veils, loose-fitting button-downs, and tulle skirts in exaggerated shapes that the brand is known for.

Turbeville’s haunting photographs were often printed in black and white or sepia. She enjoyed altering her film, making scratches and tears to give the images a faded, mystical look that set her aesthetic apart from bright, clean-cut fashion spreads of the time. She had previously worked as a fashion editor; as a photographer, she was self-taught and projected a distinctly solemn taste in her art.

Her beginnings are similar to those of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo, who created her own avant-garde revolution as a self-taught fashion designer. Like Turbeville, Kawakubo rebelled against flashy mainstream fashion — her first collection debuted in Paris in 1981 with strikingly dark, somber tones. Around that time and again in 1985, in the same city, Turbeville photographed Comme des Garçons.

Click ahead to see images from the exhibition, on view until June 10. The show is accompanied by the launch of the photography book Deborah Turbeville Comme des Garçons 1981, out May 5 from Idea Publishing and sold at Dover Street Market, New York.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

Women in the Woods, Vogue Italia, Montova, Italy, 1977.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

Women in the Woods, Vogue Italia, Montova, Italy, 1977.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

Women in the Woods, Vogue Italia, Montova, Italy, 1977.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

The Staircase: Commes des Garçons, Passage Vivienne, Paris, 1980.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

Rosima in Comme des Garçons at Vaux-le-Vicomte, for Parco, France, 1985.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

The Staircase: Commes des Garçons, Passage Vivienne, Paris, 1980.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

The Staircase: Commes des Garçons, Passage Vivienne, Paris, 1980.

Photo: Deborah Turbeville/ Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery

The Staircase: Commes des Garçons, Passage Vivienne, Paris, 1980.

Deborah Turbeville, Kindred Spirit to Comme des Garçons