Comme des Garcons Tunic Dress Jacket with Studded Belt 2000
Daughter of a university lecturer, Rei Kawakubo studied fine art at Keio University, Tokyo, and then went on to work for the advertising department of a chemical company. Disillusioned, she progressed to styling - an unusual occupation at the time. 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. Often the uninitiated cannot understand where Kawakubo is coming from: sometimes shapeless and complicated, complex and baffling, a Comme des Garçons collection exposes the inner workings of a lapel, leaves edges unfinished and reduces a sweater to an unintelligible mass of boiled wool. 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. Her biannual magazine Six (from sixth sense), with its esoteric photographs and references to Zen, will probably one day be the subject of Freudian analysis.