Rei Kawakubo (born Japan 1942), founder of Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, is considered one of the most visionary and influential designers working today. Her designs have subverted the norms of garment shape and function, reframed ideas of beauty, and proposed a new relationship between body and dress. In her endeavour to make clothes that, as she says, ‘did not exist before’, Kawakubo deconstructs clothing and creates it afresh.
For nearly five decades Kawakubo has defied convention and redefined fashion. She established Comme des Garçons in 1969, began showing in Tokyo in 1975 and debuted in Paris in 1981. The label quickly gained iconic status for its avant-garde concepts and techniques, deconstruction, androgyny, and radical forms.
Throughout her career, Rei Kawakubo has continuously re-examined various fashion ‘logics’. She has repositioned fastenings and openings, ignored function, up-ended tailoring traditions, and played with form and scale. From one season to the next, Kawakubo’s collections have consistently introduced the unexpected. A new collection might begin with a crumpled wad of paper, an abstract phrase or the instruction to, in Kawakubo’s words, ‘start with something perfect and go backwards’.
Look closely at one of the related designs and use the following discussion prompts to explore Comme des Garçons with your class:
Students create a concept design, including creating preliminary sketches and a sculptural prototype, for an accessory to accompany one of the selected looks through the following steps:
Photograph your sculptural prototyped accessory and use a photography app, such as Adobe Photoshop, to digitally overlay it onto the design from Comme des Garçons that inspired it.
Students show their designs to the class, modelling them in a fashion parade or putting them on display