Fashion legend Rei Kawakubo’s brand
Fashion Designer Rei Kawakubo, founder of COMME des GARÇONS (コム・デ・ギャルソン), was born in Tokyo in 1942. She became famous in the 1980’s because of her anti-fashion, deconstructed asymmetrical garments, mainly in black, dark grey or white, and often frayed or with holes.
When these clothes were first introduced, many people in the West were outraged and some journalists called her creations ‘Hiroshima chic’. In spite of, or perhaps because of the controversy, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris organized an exhibition of Kawakubo’s work, consisting of photographs taken by Peter Lindburgh.
Kawakubo’s reputation as a fashion genius was now firmly established.
Although Kawakubo never received a formal education as a fashion designer—she studied fine arts and literature at Tokyo’s Keio University—she began working as a freelance stylist in 1967.
In 1973, she established Comme des Garçons Co. Ltd, a fashion label for women’s clothes in Tokyo. The first boutique was opened in 1975. A men’s line was added in 1978.
In 1981, Kawakubo started presenting her fashion lines in Paris. Her first Paris boutique was started in 1982.
Since the 1990’s, her creations incorporate bright colors, although her “three shades of black” can still be found.
In 2004, Kawakubo opened her first Guerilla Store in Berlin. Guerilla Stores are simple stores, located in unfashionable locations, with a minimum of investment that are run for only one year. The Guerilla concept has been used, amongst others, in Athens (Greece), Beirut (Lebanon), The Hague (The Netherlands), Helsinki (Finland), Hong Kong (China), Krakow (Poland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Singapore, Stockholm (Sweden) and Warsaw (Poland).
The idea of running a simple store for a limited period is quite common in Japan, where it is often used to fill up undeveloped space in city centers until building begins on the plot.
The first Dover Street Market was opened in London in 2005. DSM sells most Comme Des Garçons lines and also invites other designers. Ginza DSM in Tokyo was opened in March 2012, while the New York DSM opened late 2013.
Dover Street Market (DSM), Ginza
Kawakubo maintains a holistic hands-on approach to running her company and is personally involved in the graphic design, advertising and shop interiors of her brands. Her imprint is especially visible at the Comme des Garçons flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo, which features beautiful sloping glass, for many years decorated with little blue dots.
COMME des GARÇONS flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo
Like Issey Miyake, Kawakubo is a firm believer of the apprentice system. Some of the young talent that she has nourished over the years, include high-flying fashion designers like Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi and Tao Kurihara.
COMME des GARÇONS is now sold worldwide. The brand maintains stores in Aoyama, Tokyo’s high fashion district, as well as Place Vendôme in Paris. The brand has been selling perfume since 1994.