October 11, 1942 in Tokyo, Japan
Paris and Tokyo
The iconic, famously elusive Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo has been shaking the foundations of fashion since 1969, challenging the industry with her avant garde vision and abstract designs turning clothing into fine art. She is the founder and creative director of cult declared COMME des GARÇONS, one of the most influential fashion houses in the world, and she the founder of Dover Street Market (together with husband Adrian Joffe). Often referred to as the COMME des GARÇONS universe, Kawakubo has created an arsenal of diffusion lines, sub-labels and collaborations that come under the CdG umbrella, including PLAY, Noir, Homme Plus, Homme Plus Sport, SHIRT, Tricot and more. COMME des GARÇONS is also something of a staple in streetwear circuits, counting a long list of collaborators, including Nike, Converse, Vans, Supreme and Levi’s.
Kawakubo is the second living designer to exhibit at the Met Gala in 2017, an honour of immeasurable proportions. The designer before her was Yves Saint Laurent back in 1983.
Rei Kawakubo is born.
She graduates from Keio University in Tokyo having studied fine arts and aesthetics.
She launches COMME des GARÇONS – without any prior technical training.
Opens her first CdG womenswear store in Tokyo (adding men’s in 1978). Within the next 10 years she has 150 shops across Japan earning $30 million annually.
Kawakubo links up with fellow Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, both professionally and romantically, and they continue to collaborate for several years regarded as Japan’s most innovative fashion designers, alongside Issey Miyake.
The enigmatic designer debuts on the Paris runway provoking the fashion critics with her distressed black designs, and Kawakubo and Yamamoto’s designs are awkwardly coined “Hiroshima Chic.”
Opens first Paris’ store.
For her seminal ‘Holes’/ ‘Destroy’ collection she sends models down the runway in clothes that appear to have moth holes, causing reactions across the board.
Kawakubo opens her first shop in the U.S.
She receives the Fashion Group International award and her designs are featured in the exhibition “Mode et Photo, Comme des Garçons” at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Her designs are included in the “Three Women: Madeleine Vionnet, Claire McCardell, and Rei Kawakubo” at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Kawakubo launches her own magazine, Six, a biannual publication chronicling her collections and aesthetic vision directing the company’s overall image. It features its fashion shows, graphic design, ads and the cutting-edge minimalist interior design that comes to dictate her CdG stores. Contributors are noted fashion photographers Bruce Weber and Peter Lindbergh.
Kawakubo marries long-time friend Adrian Joffe, who also becomes her creative partner, translator and CEO (who also later helps her establish Dover Street Market.)
The first of an array of CDG fragrances is released.
Kawakubo teams up with choreographer Merce Cunningham, both leaders in their respective fields, for a legendary collaboration accumulating in the “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” collection (later referred to as the “lumps and bumps” show).
She receives an Excellence in Design Award from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
COMME des GARÇONS Play is launched.
Dover Street Market is established in London, (with stores to open in New York City, Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing and Los Angeles). Kawakubo and Joffe also pioneer “guerrilla” stores, or “pop-ups,” taking CDG pop-ups to locations around the world, lasting no longer than a year in any given location. (They stop producing pop-up stores in 2008 as the rest of the world has caught on.)
The U.S. men’s swimming team breaks ten world records during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. All are wearing NASA-tested suits from the Speedo LZR Racer line – with graphics by Comme des Garçons. This year she also exhibits “ReFusing Fashion: Rei Kawakubo” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
The first ever Commes Des Garcons Play x Converse Chuck Taylor is finally released – the beginning of a long a prolific collaboration.
Dover Street Market x Nike Air Force 1 Low is released.
Kawakubo teams up with Hermès creating two scarf collections called Comme des Carrés, and also opens Dover Street Market in New York that year.
Kawakubo launches the ’Monster’ show, featuring that infamous, deconstructed six-sleeved jumper, (none of which were used as sleeves).
She is invited to exhibit at the Met Gala, the second living designer in the world to be bestowed with the honour. The exhibition is titled “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” and takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
COMME des GARÇONS and Vans team up for version of the classic Authentic sneaker. The groundbreaking Supreme x COMME des GARÇONS Shirt x Nike Air Force 1 ”Split Swoosh” is launched.