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Rei Kawakubo on Black Roses and the Importance of Freedom

The Comme des Garçons designer talks to Susannah Frankel about her Autumn/Winter 2022 collection and wanting her clothes to speak for themselves

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Susannah Frankel: Why did you choose to reference black roses in this collection?

Rei Kawakubo: As a symbol of freedom.

SF: Is there any significance to the fact that, in nature, true black roses don’t exist?

RK: The strength of the symbol lies in the very fact of its non-existence.

SF: Black roses are a symbol of mourning but also of anarchy. These are two recurrent themes in your work. Why?

RK: Always in an unreasonable world I feel anger at life.

SF: You have always been so passionate about freedom. Can you explain why?

RK: I need freedom to be myself.

SF: Do you feel that you would look at the notion of freedom differently if you were a man?

RK: Don’t understand the question.

SF: Do you feel that things have changed for women, that they are more free now?

RK: Don’t understand the question.

SF: A fashion show can be banal, it can also be an expression of extreme emotion, provoking equally extreme reactions in the people watching it. Is it important to you to provoke, to express emotion and to cause an emotional reaction in others? Is that why a live show is important to you?

RK: The point of the live show is for people to see the clothes in real life. It is part of the business.

SF: Why is fashion important?

RK: It’s one way to express oneself.

SF: It is only recently that Comme des Garçons has started sending out notes immediately following collections. Is that to stop people like me sending you questions like these? Are you interested in talking about your work?

RK: I thought it was helpful to tell the theme to a few select journalists. And as you know, I don’t like talking about my work. I want people only to look at the clothes and feel something.

SF: Our issue theme this time is Obsessed/Possessed. There’s a fine line between the two words. What are your obsessions and what does the word ‘possessed’ mean to you?

RK: I don’t have obsessions and don’t feel possessed. I just have never changed my sense of values about how I make clothes.

SF: You work in an essentially commercial industry, where possessions – with a slightly different meaning – are central. But how important are material possessions to you?

RK: I am not interested in owning anything.

SF: You have had huge influence – over other fashion designers and, more broadly, over what people wear. Do you feel a sense of pride, or if you don’t like the word ‘pride’, at least achievement?

RK: I cannot answer because it is not true.

Hair: Shiori Takahashi at Streeters using WELLA PROFESSIONALS. Make-up: Thomas de Kluyver at Art Partner using GUCCI BEAUTY. Models: Jules Volfu at XDirectn, Mina Serrano at The Hive Management, Mica Kendall at Milk Management and Rachael Carruthers and Luke Clod at Storm Management. Casting: Julia Lange at Artistry. Set design: Alice Kirkpatrick at Streeters. Manicure: Lauren Michelle Pires at Future Rep. Digital tech: Jeanne Buchi. Lighting: Alexa Horgan. Laser operator: Mark Randall. Photographic assistants: Joe Reddy, Charlotte Ellis and Tamibé Bourdanné. Styling assistants: Isabella Damazio and Roshni Rai. Hair assistants: Yuri Kato and Cher Savoy. Make-up assistants: Abbie Nourse and Josh Bart. Manicure assistant: Amy Thomas. Casting assistant: Anna Pkhakadze. Set build: Tommy Aitcheson, Toby Morrison and Tris King. Set-design assistants: Columbia Williams and Sophia Wilcox. Printing: Sarah England. Production: Partner Films. Post-production: Output.

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.