Comme des Garcons: Comme des Garçons was established in 1973; two years later Kawakubo showed in Tokyo, and opened her first shop a year after that. But it was not until she showed in Paris in 1981 that the full force of the Japanese influence filtered through. What the audience saw was a shock to the system: random ruching, irregular hems, asymmetric seams and crinkled surfaces. Vogue called it `oblique chic'.
Like her contemporaries, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo is an intellectual designer for whom fashion is a fine art. Her clothes require a different thought level, her pieces destroy preconceived ideas. The Comme des Garçons' concept sticks to the same principles: minimalist display and perplexing cuts.
In the autumn/winter 1996 collection, Kawakubo experimented with padded humps. The end product - nicknamed Quasimodo by the tabloid press for obvious reasons - had removable pads positioned in a variety of places.
Despite its unorthodox associations, Comme des Garçons has populist appeal: there are more than 300 outlets in 33 countries worldwide.
Wearer of austere expressions and giver of few interviews, Kawakubo said, in Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons (1990), "What I do is concerned with the long term, and yet fashion is cyclical. It is a paradox, but it doesn't bother me. It's always exciting to do a new collection."