Fashion

The Fashion Alphabet

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In fashion the lines have always been blurred. Men and women for generations have made a point of blending styles and silhouettes. This designer has been all about deconstructed fashion and creating looks that are unconventional and allow women and men to step out of their comfort zones.

Today we take a look at…


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Rei Kawakubo


Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese designer born on the 11th of October 1942. She is a designer who did not study the field of fashion but rather majored in Fine Arts and Literature at Keio University. Kawakubo worked for a textile company after graduating and became a freelance stylist in 1967.

In 1973, Kawakubo alongside her future husband Adrian Joffe, established her own company, Comme des Garçons Co. Ltd, which is a French term for “Like Boys” in Tokyo. She started selling women’s clothes in her first boutique in Tokyo in 1975, extending to menswear in 1978. She opened a boutique in Paris in 1982 and began presenting her fashion lines in the Fashion weeks each season.

Her concept for Comme des Garçons dedicates itself to producing in anti-fashion and clothing was often deconstructed. In the beginning of her career during the 1980s, her collections featured garments that were primarily in black, dark grey or white. The styles consisted of fabric that was draped around the body and featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and generally with asymmetrical shapes. She worked to challenge the reputable notions of beauty and created an uproar at her debut Paris fashion show where her clothing was labelled by journalists as ‘Hiroshima chic’ amongst other things. Since the late 1980s, her colour palette has grown somewhat.

A 1980s collection
A 1980s collection

Kawakubo likes to be involved in all the various aspects of her business, she has always been critically involved in graphic design, advertising, and shop interiors, with the belief that all these things are a part of one vision and are intimately linked. When it comes to store design, one of her flagship stores, the Aoyama store in Tokyo is known for its sloping glass facade decorated with blue dots. This was designed in collaboration between Rei and architect Future Systems and interior designer Takao Kawasaki.

A glimpse inside the Aoyama store in Tokyo
A glimpse inside the Aoyama store in Tokyo

She has also had a hand in publishing her own bi-annual magazine, ‘Six’ (standing for ‘sixth sense’), in the early 1990s. It contained very little text and consisted mainly of photographs and images that she deemed inspiring. The magazine closed its doors in 1991, by which time it had become an institution for Comme des Garçons. With great surprise however, Comme des Garçons presented a brand new iPad application in 2012, exploring the world of ‘Six’ magazine, featuring all the issues from 1988 to 1991.

Various covers from the 'Six' magazine
Various covers from the ‘Six’ magazine

The 1997 spring-summer collection, is often referred to as the “lumps and bumps” collection, it presented fabric in bulk and balls on the garments. This led to a collaboration, between Kawakubo and a New York-based choreographer Merce Cunningham called “Scenario“. The collection was designed mostly with vertical blue stripes on white, or in pale green and white-checkered patterns. In terms of the dance routine that was choreographed by Cunningham there were five or six dancers who would twist and pose, each in his or her own space, with a rush of additional dancers to the stage toward the end of the performance.

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The “Scenario”

For her 2006 autumn/winter collection, the entire collection dealt with the concept of the “persona”, in other words it broke down the different ways we present ourselves to the world. The look fused tailored menswear with more feminine elements such as corsets and flower printed dress fabrics. The “Persona” collection was one of the many collections that combined the ideals of femininity with masculinity.

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Kawakubo has had a hand in launching the careers of both Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara who have both initiated their own sub-labels under the Comme des Garçons name. Both also were involved in designing for the casual women’s knitwear line “Comme des Garçons Tricot“.

Kawakubo has been rather influential throughout her career, her designs have inspired many other designers like the Belgian Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, as well as Austrian designer Helmut Lang. The house of Comme des Garçons has collaborated with various other labels over the years including Levi’s, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, and many others. Comme des Garçons and H&M collaborated on an autumn “guest designer” collection which was released in the fall of 2008. Atop everything else, Kawakubo is a member of the Chambre Syndicale du Pret a Porter in Paris.

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Comme des Garçons meets Nike
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Comme des Garçons meets Louis Vuitton

Below we take a look at her autumn 2015 Ready-to-wear collection, it was described as a culmination, linking many of her concerns through the past, present, and future of her collections.

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Kawakubo has been known to be quite reclusive and media shy, preferring her innovative creations to speak for themselves. Among producing a variety of products from clothing to accessories and fragrances, her looks continue to dominate the fashion scene and while she works with co-designers, the 73 year old is not quite ready to quit.

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“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

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Thanks VB xx

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