Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo in 1942, the daughter of a senior academic at Keio University. She studied fine art (both Japanese and Western) at Keio and, after graduating in 1964, joined the advertising department of the Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei, which produced acrylic fabrics. From 1967 she worked as a freelance fashion stylist, but, critical of the selection of clothes available in Japan, she started designing them herself.
“For something to be beautiful it doesn’t have to be pretty.”
― Rei Kawakubo
There is any doubt about it; Comme Des Garçons changed the way we look at fashion today.
To understand Rei Kawakubo aesthetic (and all the emerging talents like Issey Miyake or Yohji Yamamoto also) we have to understand Japanese 60s background. There was emerging an economic and industrial boom and designers and artists found inspiration in the fusion between American pop and Japan’s consumer technologies mixing with the traditional Japanese arts. They aimed to abolish all borders — gender, body, culture, society, tradition — and proposed instead one type of clothing, something that stood outside the very framework of the system known as fashion.
Kawakubo’s aesthetic concretely was very exaggerated, were she recruited a variety of textile sculptural artists such as Yasumasa Morimura, Cai Guo-qiang, painter Tadanori Yokoo, and architect Tadao Ando, and the latter partnered with Takao Kawasaki, an architect who conceived the majority of the designer’s early Comme des Garçons boutiques.
We can say Kawakubo’s best quality was mix fashion with architectonical forms or art trends like Neo-Realism and Futurism in her runway collections and advertising. She was clearly influenced by the pure geometric forms. Because they deconstrured abstractions and sexless look they attract the most outraged and appalled of critics. Some of their biggest fans called Kawakubo’s style as “vigorously transformed clothing into art.”
“My energy comes from freedom and a rebellious spirit.”
― Rei Kawakubo
During the 1980s the color palette consisted mostly of black, dark grey and white. One of the most emblematic trends of COMME DES GARÇONS was the IRONIC JUXTAPOSITION, “The lace sweaters” showcased at FW1982/1983 collection featured black wool knits distressed with gaping holes to invoke the composition of lace.
Kawakubo later began using a brighter paint box stating, “black is no longer strong and has become harder to us”.Modern Comme des Garçons designs often include a mix of bright and sombre colours, peculiarly placed details such as pockets and exaggerated features such as elongated sleeves.
As head of fashion house Comme de Garçons, Kawakubo continually challenged accepted standards of beauty through subversive clothing construction and playing with the human form.
There have been many Comme des Garçons collaborations including those with Louis Vuitton, Fred Perry, Lacoste, H&M
Rei Kawakubo x Hermès Spring/Summer 2013 Scarf Collection
CDG for Fred Perry Spring/Summer 2007.
Louis Vuitton at Comme Des Garçons, 2008.
Comme Des Garçons for HM, 2008.