Rei Kawakubo, the designer behind the 'Comme des garcons' label, Kawakubo, studied philosophy at Keio University in her native Tokyo. Untrained as a fashion designer, but having studied fine arts and literature, she conveys her ideas verbally to her patternmakers. After graduation Kawakubo worked in a textile company and began working as a freelance stylist in 1967.She started this Japanese label in 1969 and founded the Comme des Garcons company in 1973. Starting out with women's clothes, Kawakubo added a men's line in 1978. For many, Kawakubo's arrival in the west, with the first Paris presentation of her collection in 1981, was something of a shock. She presented clothes the challenged accepted conventions. The collection was dubbed 'Hiroshima chic' for its use of dark colors, in particular black, which was not popular at the time. Kawakubo's clothes are architectonic or sculptural, concentrating on structure rather than surface. This style refused to obey accepted notions of silhouette and bodyline to create dramatic and innovative designs: upside-down pockets, de-emphasized shoulders and extra-long sleeves...holes in sweaters become gashes in the bodices of evening dresses. Jackets are dismantled and turned
inside-out or put together in new ways. The inside of a cardigan becomes the outside with the bumpy texture of knitted roses close to the body. Kawakubo won the Mainichi Fashion grand prize in 1983 and was honored by the fashion institute of technology in 1987 as one of the leading women in 20th-century design. While Kawakubo is best known for her fashion design, or 'clothes-making' as she would probably prefer to call it, her artistic vision encompasses many other areas of design, from graphics to packaging, to costume and exhibition design, to furniture, and to the architecture of her retail spaces. Her designs have inspired many new designers like e.g. The Belgian Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, as well as Austrian designer Helmut Lang.