Fashion Designer Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garcons, was born in Tokyo in 1942.
She is untrained as a fashion designer, but studied fine arts and literature at Tokyo’s prestigious Keio University. After graduation, Kawakubo worked in a textile company and began working as a freelance stylist in 1967.
In 1973, she established her own company, Comme des Garcons Co. Ltd in Tokyo and opened up her first boutique in Tokyo in 1975. Starting out with women’s clothes, Kawakubo added a men’s line in 1978. Three years later, she started presenting her fashion lines in Paris each season, opening up a boutique in Paris in 1982.
Comme des Garcons specializes in anti-fashion, austere, sometimes deconstructed garments. During the 1980s, her garments were primarily in black, dark gray or white. The materials were often draped around the body and features frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and a general asymmetrical shape. Challenging the established notions of beauty she created an uproar at her debut Paris fashion show where journalists labled her clothes ‘Hiroshima chic’ amongst other things. Since the late 1980s her colour palette has grown somewhat.
Rei likes to have input in all the various aspects of her business. Rather than just focussing on clothes and accessories. She is greatly involved in graphic design, advertising and shop interiors believing that all these things are a part of one vision and are inextricably linked. Her Aoyama, Tokyo store is known for it’s sloping glass facade decorated with little blue dots. This was designed in collaboration between Rei and a Japanese architect. Rei published her own bi-annual magazine, ‘Six’ (standing for ’sixth sense’), in the early 1990s. It featured very little text and consisted mainly for photographs and images that she deemed inspiring. In 1996 Rei was guest editor of Visionaire magazine.
Rei is known to be quite reclusive and media shy, preferring her innovative creations to speak for themselves. Being a student of Philosophy in the University of Tokyo, you can see her application of philosophy in her designs.