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.’