A few weeks ago, I was out looking for a dress. Shopping for something specific never seems to work for me. It’s my own personal Murphy’s Fashion Law: if I need a particular item and go out looking for it, I will not find it. That special item only appears magically, at the least expected time. That’s why when I find something amazing, I buy it and save it for a future occasion. Because if I wait for the occasion to shop, I will not find the right thing to wear.
My shopping trip was unsuccessful for my purposes. But I did find another dress. I saw the black wool and leather appliquÃ©. It reminded me so much of Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942).
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A few years ago, I was shopping with my friend Susan in New York. We came across a purple dress with blue gloves placed over the bust. It was quirky and unique. We spent some time talking about how wild it was. The dress was by Rei Kawakubo’s label, Commes des Garcon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar ensemble in it’s collection:
Design by Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garcons. Image courtesy of Zimbio.
Kawakubo’s designs were not always this quirky. An artist turned fashion designer, Kawakubo established her fashion label, Comme des Garcons, in Tokyo in 1973. She started with womenswear, and opened a small storefront two years later. She expanded to menswear in 1978, and in the early 1980s opened a boutique in Paris.
Rei Kawakubo adjusting a design in 1987. Image courtesy of wsj.net
Kawakubo’s designs during the 1980s can best be described as minimalist. Her garments during this period were primarily black, grey, and white. The materials were draped around the body, left with unfinished edges, included unusual details and holes, and were asymmetrical. This radical “anti-fashion” was a hit with artists, bohemians, and trendsetters. The fashion press considered Kawakubo’s designs to be “Hiroshima chic”, alluding to conditions in Postwar Japan.
I really love Kawakubo’s minimalist designs. The materials and colors and simple. The interest comes from how the garment is draped around the body, and the use of details. Take the wrap dress above. I love how the buttons are placed.
Her use of asymmetry is also so great. Everything about this dress (above) is so beautiful and simple. The diagonal seams, the geometric hem that ends in a ruffle – hard to believe it was made in 1985!
Kawakubo continues to design under her Commes des Garcons. Her designs have evolved, including whimsical details like the gloves below. Kawakubo is always in search of the new, but maintains a recognizable look to her label.
Ensemble. Commed des Garcons by Rei Kawakubo, 2007. Hat by Stephen Jones. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For more on Kawakubo, please visit:
The Wall Street Journal