rei kawakubo

Fash­ion avant-gardiste

Wallpaper - - October - Christo­pher Stocks

Rei Kawakubo has been con­found­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and plough­ing her own very in­di­vid­ual path since she ar­rived on the global fash­ion scene in 1981, with the launch of her leg­endary la­bel, Comme des Garçons. Her rad­i­cal no­tions of dress­ing, ini­tially met with raised eye­brows, have since be­come widely es­teemed and em­u­lated; while her con­sis­tent aver­sion to pub­lic­ity has only made her star burn brighter.

Our first fe­male Guest Ed­i­tor, along with Zaha Ha­did and Louise Bour­geois in Oc­to­ber 2008, Kawakubo took a typ­i­cally left-field ap­proach to her brief, as­sem­bling 20 pages that com­bined art, an­i­ma­tion, pho­tog­ra­phy, graph­ics and illustration to sum­mon up the mav­er­ick spirit of her brand. As she said then, ‘It is dif­fi­cult to say ev­ery­thing I want to say with 20 pages of peo­ple wear­ing clothes. By choos­ing the work of var­i­ous artists ac­cord­ing to the spirit of the la­bel, a new de­par­ture is ar­rived at and all the 20 pages be­come one mode of ex­pres­sion.’

Though now in her sev­en­ties, Kawakubo con­tin­ues to over­see an ever-ex­pand­ing em­pire, and is in­volved in ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness, from its highly re­garded ‘anti-per­fumes’ to graph­ics and store de­sign, as well as the Dover Street Mar­ket fash­ion em­po­ri­ums, which re­cently ex­panded to Sin­ga­pore. This year she also be­came the sec­ond liv­ing designer to be hon­oured with an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Met’s Cos­tume In­sti­tute. But per­haps she is con­sid­er­ing slow­ing down: ac­cord­ing to her hus­band and busi­ness part­ner Adrian Joffe, the Met show may be the last of its kind. Whether that proves to be the case, Marc Ja­cobs was surely right when he said, ‘It is im­pos­si­ble to over­state her in­flu­ence on mod­ern fash­ion.’

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