Rei Kawakubo went to university and studied art and literature, like a lot of bright girls do.
But then she taught herself how to design, set up shop, and soon started to change the fashion world.
Maybe design came over her like a dream, or maybe she was possessed by genius. Wherever that force majeure came from, suddenly this small, mild-mannered woman who had worked in textiles and as a stylist for a bit began to create startlingly original clothes that made the world take notice.
She started making clothes under the label Comme des Garçons in 1969 (later incorporating it as a company in 1973). It quickly established an aesthetic that caught on with the art crowd and chic bohemians, and influenced all of fashion.
Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons 1983
I am not conscious of any intellectual approach as such. My approach is simple. It is nothing other than what I am thinking at the time I make each piece of clothing, whether I think it is strong and beautiful. The result is something that other people decide.
Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter 1983-84
Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garçons, Autumn / Winter 1995
She introduced a language of deconstruction to international fashion. She uses imperfect and aged materials in her pieces.
Instead of the slender silhouettes of Western couture, there are flowing forms and a darker, monochrome colour palette. Japanese fashion designers vigorously transform their pieces into art. Japanese fashion, which intentionally does not focus on becomingness, represents a strong contrast to the typical European aesthetic sense of fashion.
Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garçons
Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garcons, Fall and Winter 2008 for H&M
In terms of creation, I have never thought of suiting any system or abiding by any rules-either a long time ago or right now. In this respect I have remained free. The necessity has grown, as we have gotten bigger, to think about commercial aspects of the business more and more, because of the responsibility we have toward our staff and our factories.
Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garçons, Lumps and Bumps.