Rei Kawakubo (born 11th October 1942 in Tokyo) is a Japanese fashion designer, founder of Comme des Garçons. She is untrained as a fashion designer, but studied fine arts and literature at Keio University. After graduation, Kawakubo worked in a textile company and began working as a freelance stylist in 1967.
Rei likes to have input in all the various aspects of her business, rather than just focussing on clothes and accessories. She is greatly involved in graphic design, advertising and shop interiors believing that all these things are a part of one vision and are inextricably linked. She is known to be quite reclusive and media shy, preferring her innovative creations to speak for themselves.
In 1973, she established her own company, Comme des Garçons (French for "like boys") Co. Ltd in Tokyo and opened up her first boutique in Tokyo in 1975. Starting out with women's clothes, Kawakubo added a men's line in 1978. Three years later, she brought her first collection to Paris. Bathed in black, it featured strong but conflated silhouettes that honored provocation over fit.Collections are designed in the Comme des Garçons studio in Aoyama, Tokyo and are made in Japan, France, Spain and Turkey. Comme des Garçons has a dozen boutiques and approximately 200 vendors around the world, Signature Comme des Garçons boutiques are located in London (Dover Street Market), Paris, New York City, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, St. Petersburg, Tokyo , Kyoto, Osaka Fukuoka.
Comme des Garcons specializes in anti-fashion, austere, sometimes deconstructed garments, sometimes lacking a sleeve or other component. Her garments are primarily in black, dark gray, and white, often worn with combat boots. The materials were often draped around the body and featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and a general asymmetrical shape.
Junya Watanabe, Kawakubo's former apprentice, started his own line in the early 1990s and has attained much attention in the fashion business in his own right. Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara have started their own sub-labels under the Comme des Garçons name to much acclaim. Both were also involved in designing for the casual women's knitwear line 'Comme des Garçons Tricot'.
Rei designs have inspired many other late designers like the Belgian Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, as well as Austrian designer Helmut Lang. Comme des Garçons have collaborated with various other labels over the years including Fred Perry, Levi's Converse All Star, Speedo, Nike, Moncler, Lacoste, Cutler and Gross, Chrome Hearts, Hammerthor, S. N. S. Herning, Louis Vuitton and many others. Comme des Garçons and H&M collaborated on a collection which was released in the fall of 2008.