Rei Kawakubo

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Rei Kawakubo
Born かわくぼ れい
川久保 玲

(1942-10-11) 11 October 1942 (age 74)
Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Education Keio University
Occupation Fashion designer
Spouse(s) Adrian Joffe
Labels Comme des Garçons

Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲 Kawakubo Rei?) born 11 October 1942, is a Japanese fashion designer from Tokyo. She is the founder of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market.

Early life[edit]

She is an untrained fashion designer, but studied fine arts and literature at Keio University. After graduation, Kawakubo worked in the advertising department at the textile company, Ashai Kasei and she went on to work as a freelance stylist in 1967.[1]

Two years later, she began to make her own clothes under the label Comme des Garçons, before incorporating the label in 1973.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Between the 1980s and 1990s Kawakubo was in a relationship with fellow 'Hiroshima Chic' fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, but the relationship ended. Kawakubo later went on to marry Adrian Joffe, the current CEO of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market. She lives in Tokyo but often travels to Paris to her companies' head offices in the Place Vendôme and also sometimes makes rare visits to some of her fashion shows.


In 1973, she established her own company, Comme des Garçons Co. Ltd in Tokyo[2] and opened up her first boutique there in 1975. Starting out with women's clothes, Kawakubo added a men's line in 1978. Three years later, she started presenting her fashion lines in Paris each season, opening up a boutique in Paris in 1982.[3]

Comme des Garçons specialises in anti-fashion, austere, sometimes deconstructed garments. During the 1980s, her garments were primarily in black, dark grey or white. The emphasis on black clothing lead to the Japanese press describing Kawakubo and her followers as 'The Crows'.[1] The materials were often draped around the body and featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and a general asymmetrical shape. Challenging the established notions of beauty she created an uproar at her debut Paris fashion show where journalists labeled her clothes 'Hiroshima chic' amongst other things. Since the late 1980s, her colour palette has grown somewhat.[4]

Rei likes to have input in all the various aspects of her business, rather than just focusing on clothes and accessories. She is greatly involved in graphic design, advertising, and shop interiors believing that all these things are a part of one vision and are inextricably linked. Her Aoyama, Tokyo store 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.[5] Rei published her own bi-annual magazine, 'Six' (standing for 'sixth sense'), in the early 1990s. It featured very little text and consisted mainly of photographs and images that she deemed inspiring.[6] In 1996 Rei was guest editor of the high art publication Visionaire.

Rei is known to be quite reclusive and media shy, preferring her innovative creations to speak for themselves. According to Women's Wear Daily, she is a fashion icon but, during an interview, she said she does not think of herself as an icon.[7] Her designs have inspired many other late designers like the Belgian Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, as well as Austrian designer Helmut Lang.

Junya Watanabe, Kawakubo's former apprentice, started his own line in the early 1990s and has attained much attention in the fashion business in his own right.

Kawakubo created the 2008 autumn "guest designer" collection at H&M, designing men's and women's clothing along with some children's and a unisex perfume.[8]

Rei is also known for establishing Dover Street Market, whose design ethos can be described as a Comme Des Garcons version of a department store. Originally createdin 2004 in London's Dover Street, more DSM locations have opened in Tokyo, Beijing and New York. A multi-brand store, Dover Street Market puts particular emphasis on visual marketing and on emerging talents; DSM was the first international stockist for Russian Designer Gosha Rubchinskiy and now handle Rubchinskiy's marketing, production and operations.[9]

Vogue magazine and the Metropolitan Museum in New York have announced that an exhibition dedicated to Kawakubo is scheduled for its 2017 season.[10]

Principal lines[edit]

  • Comme des Garçons
  • Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons
  • Tricot Comme des Garçons
  • Comme des Garçons Robe De Chambre (discontinued)
  • Comme des Garçons noir
  • Comme des Garçons Homme
  • Comme des Garçons Homme Plus
  • Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Evergreen
  • Comme des Garçons Homme Deux
  • Comme des Garçons Shirt
  • Play Comme des Garçons
  • Comme des Garçons Parfums
  • Comme des Garçons Wallet
  • Comme des Garçons Play

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Rei Kawakubo | #BoF500 | The Business of Fashion". The Business of Fashion. Retrieved 2017-01-26. 
  2. ^ Klensch, E. (1987, Aug 01). Fashion: Another world of style: Rei kawakubo. Vogue,177, 306-306, 307, 308, 309, 377.
  3. ^ Bodine, S., & Idzelis, D. (2002). Kawakubo, Rei. In T. Benbow-Pfalzgraf (Ed.), Contemporary Fashion (2nd ed., pp. 365-368). Detroit: St. James Press.
  4. ^ "History of Fashion Designer Rei Kawakubo". Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  5. ^ Jodidio, Philip (2002). "Rei Kawakubo". Architecture Now! 2. 2. Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-1594-6. 
  6. ^ Martin, Richard (1995-01-01). Contemporary fashion. ISBN 1558621733. 
  7. ^ Foley, Bridget (20 December 2013). "Rei Kawakubo Speaks". WWD. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Meeting of two worlds - H&M/COMME DES GARÇONS debuts today in Tokyo". 
  9. ^ Woo, Kin (2016-03-22). "Gosha Rubchinskiy's Dover Street Market Photo Diary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-26. 
  10. ^ Vogue Magazine. Announcement of Kawakubo exhibition in New York 2017. [1]