Free «Rei Kawakubo Fashion Icon» Essay Sample

The paper is about a renowned cloth fashion designer, Rei Kawakubo, and the Comme des Garcons –the fragrance stores she founded. Rei was born and brought up in Japan. She studied Philosophy in fine arts. Despite having any background in fashion, Rei developed any strong zeal in it. Her philosophy knowledge of questioning the convectional order of doing things greatly contributed to her extemporary stylish fashion design.  The design incorporates elements from the famed Fruits subculture of the Harajuko district of Tokyo.Kawakubo is a member of the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter.

Comme des Garcons were the showrooms that Rei built for her fashion design.  The Comme Des Garcons specialize in anti-fashion, austere, and deconstructed garments. The garments are primarily in black, dark gray, and white. Combat boots gives an excellent match with the Rei fashion design. The exhibitions aim to present a view of Kawakubo's work as a series of interventions and disruptions in the arena of style and fashion (Kawamura, 36).

The paper still examines the relationship between fashion and architecture. Both are based on structure, shape and elegance in the basic necessities of clothes and shelter.

Biography about Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo in 1942. Rei Kawakubo studied fine art at Keio University in Tokyo and graduated in 1964. From 1964 to 1966, she worked under Japanese textile designer Asahi Kasei after which she worked as a free lance fashion designer.

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In 1969, she established her own company in Tokyo, which she called "Comme des Garcons” and started producing women wear.  Comme des Garcons means "Like the boys” in French.  In 1978 she started producing men clothing using brand name "Homme". In 1980 Rei Kawakubo moved to Paris. She set up a salon there and in 1981 she presented here first collection in Paris. She also opened a boutique there. Her non-traditional clothing contributed to her global attention while at Paris during the late 70's and early 80's. Rei is married to Englishman Adrian Joffe, who is her business partner as well as husband.

Comme des Garcons specialized in anti-fashion, austere, and deconstructed garments which were mostly black. Rei found it easier to design black garment as the black color could do well with a blue, purple, or grey shades. Comme des Garcons collection was dubbed "Hiroshima chic" by design writers. This was because it championed the unpopular black color besides improving body perceptions by shapeless irregularly perforated boiled wool wears. From a humble beginning, Comme des Garcons have emerged as a fashion empire with over 200 franchises around the globe

Fashion and architecture is highly related as both fields tries to keep abreast with technology developments.  Technology brings new tastes in life that are mostly enjoyed by consuming fashion and architecture services. Both fashion and architecture address basic human needs such as protection from adverse weather and from physical harm. They do this by using almost the same process in designing either the clothing, or the building. They use words such as folding, pleating, wrapping in describing surfaces (Martin112). This is clearly outlined in any building design or in a fashion design.


Both fashion and architecture fields deal with the outer surface and inner structure by focusing mainly on the human body (Yeohlee, 5). A fashion designer does this by taking flat materials and shapes them to fit the curved human body. This is enabled by joining material fabric together to form elegant human clothing.

 The architect membrane structures, lightweight glasses and plastics used in building construction has emerged as textile development. Architects are borrowing the techniques of pleating, stapling, cutting and draping from traditional tailoring to design buildings that are flexible, interactive, inflatable and even portable. Architects use folding and wrapping building roofing such as that of Yokohama International Port Terminal to enhance the building surface.  The roofing looks like a printed skirt draped over the top of the building.

Space overlapping

Fashion and architecture designs are geared to provide the human body with enough space for shelter and protection. Fashion designers focus mainly on space between the body and the dress which links to how an architect is interested in the interior space of a building and not just the surface, (Bradley, 15). Comme des Garçons collection makes careful attention on where the body meets dress with the bump. In her works, Rei Kawakubo concentrated on the space between the body and the garment in creating new forms by redesigning that space.  However, designers and architects use geometry to generate forms. They partition building into different areas in order to create space.  For instance, in design there is what is referred to as constructing area, structural skin which includes pleating, draping, wrapping and folding in space creation.

Cultural identity

Fashions are mostly designed to depict a group of people way of living.  The clothing tries to explain people’s style of life such as the Masaai attire in Kenya who are a pastoralist community, or the Nigerian attire which depicts the business life style of the Nigerian people. Likewise, architects use pavilions to represent different national identity. For example, the Jeffersonian building in America that is treasure in American identity.

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Influences on Rei Kawakubo's design philosophy ex

In her work, Rei Kawakubo was influenced by the western perspective on body adornment and the meaning of clothes. She made new cloth designs to break this western perception on fashion. Rei was also influenced by the Japanese conception of the largely male-dominated society. She endeavored to bring females into lime light by using fashion and design. Kawakubo’s influence has been to “create forms that no one has ever seen before and to produce optical stimulus that are completely contrary, i.e, deconstructionism, Wong 2/13”.

Historical movements


During post modernization design era, Rei portrayed fashion as an ever changing field. Rei strived to satisfy the clothing need of the society by responding to the social cultural environment. During this, era Rei design garments were in oversized dark skinny models that generated sensation of Japanese fashion. Rei design was focused on a monochrome palette – dark. In responding to the postmodern sculptural forms, Rei designed the romantic subtleties – skirts, sweaters – in addition to synthetic fibers which faired greatly in her executions.  For instance, the black wool knits "lace" sweaters of the famed Comme des Garçons fall/winter 1982–83 collection. Rei used this sweater to invoke the composition of lace.

The Rei 1982 Jumper and Skirt design were clearly out of the normal. The skirt was dark, distorted silhouettes outfits which covered and warped the female figure rather than exposing it as most other outfits were geared to fulfill. Rei aimed at declaring beauty in simple loose wear while still challenging the Modernist idea of perfection and order. In her designs, Kawakubo’s clothes were deliberately designed to look unfinished and worn thereby challenging notions of perfection. For instance, Rei would let the edge of the skirt unravel without a hem and utilize it as part of her style


In deconstruction, Rei exhibitions could have a surface slits making the cloth free over the body. Rei combines this with piercing colors and wild, billowing patterns of her dress patterns. She uses seams, bandages, belts and zippers to improve on the design performance, (ULF, 87). These garments were influential largely on complexity and intellectual design.

Deconstruction influenced Rei knitewear in various ways: (a) asymmetry in terms of left-to-right-side body balance, and hemlines. ( b) utilization of non-traditional textiles and yarns.(c ) combining of contrasting weight fabrications, (d) the cutting –up of traditional tailored shapes into broken and unfinished sections (e) the purposeful  use of unfinished edge to create aesthetic effect (f) distortion of  the proportion of the body through fits and shapes.

Bearing deconstruction in mind, Rei designed a sweater full of   holes. However, each hole was carefully constructed by using traditional cast-on and cast-off knitting process. The design was adopted in punke , grunge, and post-punk looks.

Rei Kawakubo's design characteristics in fashion

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Rei introduced a new sartorial convention different from the normal way of wearing a garment.For example; Rei brought the two neck holes instead of one or three sleeves instead of two, and leave it up to a wearer to decide which hole or sleeve one wants to wear.

Rei too redefined the shape of Western clothing attire.  The conventional western female clothes have historically been fitted to expose the contours of the body, but Rei introduced large, loose-fitting garments with a straight, simple shape.Further more, Rei fashion design are characterized by a change in gender specialty in clothes. Rei designs are neutral or unisex leaving no gender role to the attire that one put on.

In fashion and design there are standards that need to be observed just like in any other field. However, Rei did away with these conventional standards by introducing new tools and techniques in fashion design. For instance, Kawakubo’s clothes were deliberately designed to look unfinished and worn, defying common sense and challenging notions of perfection. Rei put no rules on cloth fabric. Rei introduced hand-weaving away from sewing machines so as to produce uniform, flawless textures in her designs (Joel, 87)

Conventionally, fashion is highly associated with beauty. However, Rei designs are characterized by new unique style that always gives different meaning to aesthetics. Rei work has a common and consistent principle in beauty. While western clothing fashion designers intention is to show the body contours, Rei designs are aimed at enabling a person to raise their self esteem.  She achieves this by using cloth shape that gives the body the volume that it needs.

Philosophy in Comme Des Garcons Stores Ex

Since its inception, Comme des Garçons fragrance philosophy has always been to create fragrances that haven't existed before, and that excite and stimulate. Comme des Garçons have five different stories: for example one is the collaborations, another is original design like the pebble bottle, and another is the series like Incense. The values have been consistent in advancing creativity. For example the  1994 bees and orchids fragrance was meant to describe the Comme des Garçons fragrance philosophy of  "a perfume for oneself, to raise the spirit and excite the senses, to make one feel positive" and "a perfume that works like a medicine and behaves like a drug"

New York

In New Yolk, Rei has made creative contribution in the fashion industry. She has done away with the conventions in cloth design as well as the decoration and layout of her shops. This Comme Des Garcons uniqueness is extended in advertising campaigns too. For instance, Comme des Garçons fashion collections has offered shirts with extra sleeves and neck holes, skirts and dresses with wildly irregular hemlines, and jackets with slits up the length of the sleeve. In the early 1980s Rei stores displayed clothing sparsely in harsh fluorescent light. Fortunately, this Comme des Garçons authenticity is now widely adapted by many other merchandise stores.


In ensuring her philosophy, Rei was involved in the interior design of her 1999 flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo. Collaboration with architect Takao Kawasaki allowed the space to effect actual products' designs in movement, festivity, and energy of the architecture and furniture unite with the clothing accessories.  The design looked elegant with the connections of the glass to the ceiling. Flowing waves of dotted glass separate the dirty street and store interior as if with fabric. White interior partitions and glass walls further divide up the interior space.

In her product design, Rei emphasizes product structure than its physical appearance. This guides her unique and unusual cloth design as well as the stores structure. She uses materials to express her perception of the world. The same principle applies to perfumes.

In London, Comme des Garçons created a space Dover Street Market to house Rei philosophy.  The store is composed of four different floors with each designer’s unique collections. For instance, Comme des Garçons use the second floor to displays Alaias. The London stores have a play dummy, checkerboard floor and spare wall coverings. The floors change depending on the brand surrounding them, making the whole store coherent in its concept and beautiful in its arrangement.

Rei has collaboration with the house of Fred Perry whose classic sportswear is named for the Wimbledon tennis star. They are making polo shirts and sweaters in school uniform shades and will add sports bags. Comme des Garçons lays out the ''rules'' behind this in its futurist manifesto: ''The location will be chosen according to its atmosphere, historical connection, geographical situation away from established commercial areas or some other interesting feature,''.

Through her work, REi has proved to be an elusive fashion designs and architectural interiors icon.  She has successfully challenged fashion convections by use off-fashion designs in creating new fashion trends. Rei has achieved this through collaborations with individuals from different fields but who have an interest in fashion.  Rei Kawakubo work is inspired by the masculine dress, street culture and her Japanese heritage rather than the traditional fashion cues. Rei greatest achievement is with the black attire which is today the preferred palette for day official wear contrary to fashion notion prior to invention. Rei Kawakubo is a modernist designer whose work perfectly combines traditional and modern fashion from both Eastern and Western design styles. Rei uses shape in the clothing design to break convectional mode of lot structure development. The shape is enhanced by use of asymmetric cut, clean lines and a unique color to the design.

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