Rei KawakuboJapanese (Tokyo, Japan, 1942)
Born and based in Tokyo, fashion designer Rei Kawakubo founded the label Comme des Garcons in 1973, and opened her first boutique in Paris seven years later. Kawakubo is known for an austere, deconstructed style that has resulted, for example, in a tunic that seems to be "missing" a sleeve, or in pants with upside-down pockets. She works in a minimalist palette of black, dark gray, and white fabrics, oftentimes making an "anti-fashion" statement by pairing sophisticated ensembles with combat boots.
Kawakubo is also known for her unconventional approach to design direction. Untrained as a designer but well versed in fine arts and literature, she conveys her ideas to her patternmakers verbally, rather than through drawings and schematics. Her practice has inspired many new designers, including Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang. Kawakubo's influence is also visible in the work of Junya Watanabe, a former apprentice who started his own line in 1994.