Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲) is a Japanese fashion designer and founder of Comme des Garcones. Her work has made her one of the most famous of the initial wave of new Japanese designers in the 1980s and a household name in the fashion industry around the world.
Untrained in fashion design, Kawakubo studied fine arts and literature at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. She worked for a textile company following graduation and started working as a stylist on her own in 1967. Her company, Comme des Garcons Co. Ltd was started in 1973 in Tokyo and the first boutique for the company was opened in 1975. The brand started exclusively with women’s clothing but expanded to offer men’s clothing in 1978. The first line presented by Kawakubo in Paris was shown in 1981 and opened her first boutique there in 1982.
Rei Kawakubo’s style with Comme des Garcons is best known for being against the normal trends of fashion, using austere and deconstructed fabrics for her cloths. Sticking to black, grey and white in the color wild 1980s, she has long been known for sticking to a series of basic ideals that usually provide draping over the body with asymmetrical shapes. Since the 1980s, the colors used in her clothing has increased some however. To this day, Rei still has a great deal of say in every aspect of her company and its more than fifteen different lines and sub-companies. From graphic design to advertising and shop design, Rei’s hand is in everything. Rei is largely shy of the media and stays away from the public eye as much as possible.
Many of Kawakubo’s protégés have gone on to do their own amazing design work as well, including Junya Watanabe among many others. Additionally, she has inspired designers from around the world, including the likes of Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela.