Acclaimed Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo is known for her abstract designs and establishing the weird and wonderful Commes des Garçons fashion universe. Since founding the not so ready-to-wear brand over 50 years ago, she's challenged the traditional notions of what is considered fashion with collections that take on conceptual, and often sculptural, forms. With a background studying literature and art at Keio University in Tokyo, Kawakubo decided to embark on a different creative path. After graduating, she found a position in advertising at Asahi Kasei, a Japanese textile company. In 1967, she ventured into freelance styling, and two years later, established the Commes Des Garçons label without any formal training as a fashion designer.
Unencumbered by the constraints of traditional tailoring, Kawakubo experimented with shape and form, creating deconstructed garments that often resemble art pieces more than clothes. One of her most famed collections is the Commes des Garçons Spring/Summer 1997 show–titled Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress and also known as the "lumps and bumps" collection–which featured clothing with exaggeratted padded areas that created distorted silhouettes. The groundbreaking designer was also the subject of the Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017. While Kawakubo explores unconventional design through her runway collections, she has also had major commercial success with Commes des Garçons' consumer-focused Play line and Dover Street Market's retail stores.
Best-known as the face of avant-garde style, Kawakubo continues to have a long-lasting impact in the industry. On the designer's 78th birthday, L'OFFICIEL rounds up Kawakubo's most artistic and abstract designs.