Photograph by Irving Penn for Vogue Magazine, 1993.
Enigmatic and elusive, defiant and fearless, designer Rei Kawakubo’s remarkable career has been characterized by avant-garde experimentation. Since founding Comme des Garçons in 1969, she remains the owner and creative force behind the label, producing collections that delight and confound. Surreal, deconstructed and cerebral, Kawakubo challenges convention by showing “what I thought was strong and beautiful. It just so happened that my notion was different from everybody else’s.”
Properly placed among Coco Chanel, Claire McCardell, Madeleine Vionnet and Cristóbal Balenciaga, Kawakubo’s influence and artistic innovation is unparalleled. She is truly a living legend.
“The main pillar of my activity is making clothes, but this can never be the perfect and only vehicle of expression. I am always thinking of the total idea, and the context of everything. Fashion alone is so far from being the whole story. It seems that with fashion, as with art, things are getting easier in one sense but at the same time it is getting harder to be stimulated about things or excite people. Without that impetus of creation, progress is not possible. All kinds of ways of expression are spreading out all over the place, information is overflowing, and it’s harder and harder to be excited about anything. In order to be stimulated or moved in the future, we probably have to go into space and look at our world from there.
What do I think is an unyielding spirit? It would be wonderful if everyone had it in equal measure. But it’s impossible. This defiant mentality can also be called the fight against absurdity and injustice and the power (authority) that thrives around it (that is rampant). One cannot fight the battle without freedom. I think the best way to fight that battle, which equals the unyielding spirit, is in the realm of creation. That’s exactly why freedom and the spirit of defiance is the source (fountainhead) of my energy.”
-Rei Kawakubo [via]
Dress from Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body collection (spring/summer 1997) [via]
“My design process never starts or finishes. I am always hoping to find something through the mere act of living my daily life. I do not work from a desk, and do not have an exact starting point for any collection. There is never a mood board, I do not go through fabric swatches, I do not sketch, there is no eureka moment, there is no end to the search for something new. As I live my normal life, I hope to find something that click starts a thought, and then something totally unrelated would arise, and then maybe a third unconnected element would come from nowhere. Often in each collection, there are three or so seeds of things that come together accidentally to form what appears to everyone else as a final product, but for me it is never ending. There is never a moment when I think, ‘this is working, this is clear.’ If for one second I think something is finished, the next thing would be impossible to do.
“Often the elements are completely disassociated in time and dimension. One might be an emotion, the next thing a pattern image, the third thing an object or a picture I have seen somewhere. I can never remember when and from where the elements come together in my head. I trust synergy and change. For fall 2012, I was thinking about no design being design, about very ordinary fabric (wool felt) being strong. Somehow, the two-dimension level of thinking became apparent.
“I do not feel happy when a collection is understood too well. For me, White Drama was too easily understood, the concept too clear. I feel better about fall 2012, because it wasn’t too clear, and some people assumed things it had nothing to do with, like the Internet age.
“The struggle to find something new gets more and more difficult with time and experience, so this time, for fall 2012, my feeling was to try to make a collection by doing very little.”
-Rei Kawakubo [via]
Dress from Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body Collection (spring/summer 1997) [via]