Rei Kawakubo, Meet the Designer behind the Comme des Garcons Fashion Empire
Born in Tokyo, Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo is an enigmatic figure. Spanning five decades, her career includes the founding of fashion house, Comme des Garçons and retail fashion company, Dover Street Market. Though Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲) lives a relatively private life at home in Tokyo and Japan, her contributions to art and fashion aren’t going unnoticed. In celebration of her remarkable design career, Kawkubo finds herself the topic of fashion’s most elusive event, the Met Gala. Each year the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute choses a new Met Gala theme. For its latest fete, the work of Rei Kawakubo and her Comme des Garçons brand inspire an ‘Avant Garde’ Met Gala theme for its 2017 ball.
“Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between”
Alongside the black-tie charity event is a special exhibition at the met costume institute. Following in the footsteps of iconic designers like Alexander McQueen and his Manus x Machina met gala theme, Rei Kawakubo finds herself on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Titled, “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” the met exhibit explores the unique aesthetic of the CDG founder.
The Birth and Rise of Kawakubo’s CDG Brand
With no formal fashion design training, Kawakubo’s introduction to fashion is unorthodox. Upon graduation from Keio University in 1964, she begins a job in the advertising department of a textile company. Shortly after, the eager creative becomes a freelance stylist. However, it is in 1969 when Rei Kawakubo makes the biggest decision of her career. She officially launches Comme des Garçons. Originating from a French phrase, the playful Comme des Garçons name translates to mean like some boys. Initially, the line was just a small collection of clothing for herself. By 1975, CDG is positioning itself for big retail business. As such, Kawakubo opens her first fashion boutique in Tokyo. Three years later, Comme des Garcons makes its Paris Fashion Week arrival. The Japanese fashion designer had officially made her international debut. However, Rei Kawakubo and her CDG brand weren’t stopping their.
By 1980, CDG is a fashion retail empire. The business has grown to include over 150 franchise shops across her native country Japan. Fans were also showing support for Commes des Garcons with their wallets. During this period, the brand’s annual revenue climbs to $30 million. Alongside her immense business growth, Rei Kawakubo’s personal life is also growing a topic of interest. For almost a decade the Tokyo born designer is in a relationship with fellow Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. Though their relationship eventually ends, her CDG empire doesn’t waiver.
The Unique Aesthetic of Tokyo-born Rei Kawakubo
Those who know Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲) know that she truly embodies every aspect of her elusive Commes des Garcons brand. Relatively media shy, the talented designer works a similarly obscure aesthetic into her garments. Known in the eighties for her use of black, white, and dark grey, CDG creates a dark, highly conceptual type of fashion. The Japanese press even refers to Commes des Garcons wearers during the time as ‘The Crows’. In addition to her architectural creations, Kawakubo also works politics into her design. Particularly, the high-fashion designer focuses on LGBTQ rights, hiding references in her CDG advertisements and fashion marketing campaigns.
Now, almost five decades after the launch of CDG, Rei Kawkubo is officially being recognized as one of the most iconic fashion designers – ever. Joining the ranks of Alexander McQueen, CoCo Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent, her name is forever etched into the fashion industry. From her island home in Tokyo, Japan to Paris and the entire world, Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲) is officially fashion history.