The name Rei Kawakubo might not seem familiar to a lot of people unfortunately, but Comme des Garcons might. Rei Kawakubo is the wonderful woman behind the CDG clothing brand. With this article, I want to help more people discover her as a designer, artist and person.
She was born on 11th of October 1942, in Tokyo Japan. She always had a rebellious nature, changing up her school uniform by bunching her socks down to her ankles. Rei graduated in 1964 from Keio University in Tokyo where she studied the arts and aesthetics. She always considered her mom as her role mother, since her mom left Rei’s father because he wouldn’t allow her to work outside of her house. Kawakubo left home after finishing college and started working at a textile factory in the advertising department. Her superior gave her full creative freedom and started becoming involved in collecting costumes and props for photoshoots. This led her to start designing her own pieces that she could use for certain photoshoots. She left the factory 3 years later so that she could become a freelance stylist.
Kawakubo starts selling her pieces in shops under the Comme des Garcons label in Tokyo in 1969 and opened her first shop in 1973. Within 10 years she had over 150 stores all over Japan. Rei wanted to design comfortable clothing for women ( comme des garcons). She wanted to create clothes for independent women who didn’t want to fit the stereotype of what women should wear and how they should look. By 1981 she added 3 new clothing lines (Homme, Tricot and Robe de Chambre).
Her pieces were ill-fitting, loose, asymmetrical and the color black was never missing. People started calling her work “Anti-Fashion” and critics weren’t very fond of her and her work. She helped change fashion by defying female beauty concepts and the way people perceive things. Rei once said that beauty is what brings excitement.
Rei is known for designing her stores in a very avant garde and creative way, using them as a creative outlet. She and her husband, Adrian Joffe, created a high fashion mecca called Dover Street Market which was inspired by now-defunct Kensington Market, a three store bazaar where you could find subculture fashions from the 1960s until it closed in 2000. At DSM they invited international up-and-coming and already established designers so they could display and sell their work
Along the years she added a new popular streetwear line, called Comme des Garcons PLAY, an affordable collection entitled BLACK that referenced past season bestsellers and collaborated with H&M on a collection that became very popular.
Many designers, including Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang, have referenced Kawakubo as an inspiration for their own designs. Kawakubo is often considered to be both a fashion designer and artist. This speaks to the ways in which her designs are able to bridge the boundaries between fashion and art.
A few of her pieces:
Hope this was helpful and that you learned something new from this. Let me know if there is a certain designer you would want me to write about. Have a great day,