With a career that spans over fifty years, it is hard to summarize Kawakubo’s legacy in a few words. Kawakubo’s journey to infamy began in 1964 when she was a newly employed advertising consultant for a textile company in Japan. While creating campaigns for the aforementioned company, Kawakubo constantly found herself frustrated due to the inadequacy of the material she was working with. It was around this time that Kawakubo’s co-workers began to encourage her to pursue a career in fashion design. By 1967, Rei had departed the textile company and became a freelance stylist. In between styling gigs, she would take the time to practice designing and tailoring. It was then in 1969 that Kawakubo would go on to establish what we now know as Comme des Garcons. Her breakthrough would come in 1981 after the presentation of her first runway show. Though met with wide disdain by critics, accusing her of the dramatic overuse of the color black, the public flocked far and wide to get a hold of Kawakubo’s garments. Her designs were known to challenge societal norms and the mundane. Rei believed that she could not create new clothes so she decided to create new bodies instead. Kawakubo had officially established her brand as a bastion for fashion’s black sheep.
The next twenty years took Comme des Garcons to the world stage. Kawakubo quickly expanded her empire creating what now is a multifaceted business with over 12 sub-labels each creating their world within the universe of Comme. She has also been key in bringing new talents like Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi, and Fumito Ganryu to the forefront of the industry. There are not enough words to accurately describe Kawakubo’s legacy, her iconoclastic vision has made her one of the most influential designers of the 20th century.