We present the extraordinary and elusive Rei Kawakubo, in her own words, and those of her friends and admirers
Ask anyone working in the fashion industry which living designer they most admire, and chances are they will say Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons. For AnOther Magazine S/S10, we asked some friends, from Stephen Jones to Nick Knight, Alexander McQueen to Björk, just what makes the elusive designer such an unlikely figurehead for fashion, and print a rare response from the lady herself, alongside a stunning shoot by Lina Scheynius starring the S/S10 collection.
Alice Rawsthorn, journalist:
“Fashion was so much more politicised [in the 80s], because feminism was so important. What you wore said so much about your own identity, and how you wanted to represent yourself. Comme was the perfect solution. Swathing yourself in those black folds felt super chic, super uncompromising, super radical and super feminist – like waving a very elegant two-fingered salute at the establishment.”
Alexander McQueen, designer:
“What’s really impressive about [Rei] is that she’s never backed down. I believe everyone should be like that, but it’s hard. I know how tough it is to do the things you want to do. Rei doesn’t compromise, nor should she. No one should compromise. Compromise makes people dull.”
“In person, Rei reminded me of my grandmother – a much younger, Japanese version. She was confident, calm, not falling for any pressure to take part in small talk or other social behaviour, not moving out of her integrity zone for others. I think she has definitely proved that it is possible to be that brave, that it is possible to keep one’s integrity.”
Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, creative consultant:
“Rei was the first designer to symbolise a change in attitude. She’s a non-conformist. Just at the moment you think she’s made the rule, she breaks the rule. She’s the most consistently unpredictable person in our business. I think her influence is so wide that if she hadn’t been there then Apple wouldn’t exist.”
"The Comme perfumes are the only fragrances for me. I enjoy each new vision, their modernity, their original scent is the essence of the European street, of foreign cigarettes and of incense."
“The main pillar of my activity is making clothes, but this can never be the perfect and only vehicle of expression. I am always thinking of the total idea, and the context of everything. Fashion alone is so far from being the whole story. It seems that with fashion, as with art, things are getting easier in one sense but at the same time it is getting harder to be stimulated about things or excite people. Without that impetus of creation, progress is not possible. All kinds of ways of expression are spreading out all over the place, information is overflowing, and it’s harder and harder to be excited about anything. In order to be stimulated or moved in the future, we probably have to go into space and look at our world from there.
What do I think is an unyielding spirit? It would be wonderful if everyone had it in equal measure. But it’s impossible. This defiant mentality can also be called the fight against absurdity and injustice and the power (authority) that thrives around it (that is rampant). One cannot fight the battle without freedom. I think the best way to fight that battle, which equals the unyielding spirit, is in the realm of creation. That’s exactly why freedom and the spirit of defiance is the source (fountainhead) of my energy.”
For the full article, and for all 25 issues in the AnOther Magazine archive, visit Exact Editions.