Tokyo 1952. Japanese fashion designers.

Japanese Fashion Designers

Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garçons

Rei Kawakubo

Comme Des Garçons (CDG) is a Japanese fashion label based in Paris, created by radical designer Rei Kawakubo in 1969. 
Rei was born in Tokyo in 1942. She studied fine art and literature in university and went on to work in advertising and styling, before setting up CDG.
She specializes in anti-fashion; austere, deconstructed garments. 
The brand's name was inspired by Françoise Hardy's 1962 song "Tous les garçons et les filles", particularly from the line "Comme les garçons et les filles de mon âge."

The brand became successful in Japan in the 70s, opening 150 shops in the country by 1980. She debuted in Paris in 1981, where critics viewed Kawakubo’s style negatively. Her heavy use of black, distressed fabrics and unfinished seams was not to the critic's tastes. The clothes became associated with a punk-orientated style. The emphasis on black clothing led to the Japanese press describing Kawakubo and her followers as 'The Crows'.

Women's Wear Daily called the 1982 collection the 'Hiroshima bag lady look’.
CDG’s collections are designed in Tokyo and manufactured in Japan, France, Spain and Turkey. 

The 1995 "Sleep" collection consisted of striped pajamas bearing prints of identification numbers and marks of military boot prints. Media coverage juxtaposed images of the collection with images taken at Aushwitz concentration camp, and the controversy received international coverage. Kawakubo was deeply saddened by the controversy and said her work had been misunderstood. 







Some of her most memorable collections include 1997’s ‘Body meets dress, dress meets body’. It is rare that Kawakubo reveals the body. Rather, her work is obsessed with, for lack of better terms, lumps and bumps. She creates protrusions and protuberances that distort the shape of the human form and, in doing so, proposes new ideas of beauty. 

Kawakubo is the second living designer to be honoured with an exhibition at the Met, which took place in 2017 entitled ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between’. 

Below: An incredible CDG pleated blazer and sheer dress we have in the store. 

Vintage 1990s Comme Des Garcons Black Pinstripe Pleated Jacket, Small

Below: We also have an 80s men's linen suit available. 

1980s Vintage Men's Suit, Salmon Colour Designer 2-Piece Linen Suit, Comme Des Garcons, C40

We have some Junya Watanabe for CDG also available in the shop:

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake is a Japanese fashion designer, well known for his technology-driven & architecturally-inspired work.
He was born in Hiroshima where he witnessed the atomic bomb drop in 1945, losing most of his family at the age of 7.
After studying graphic design in Tokyo, he enrolled in the Chambre Syndicate de la Couture Parisienne school. He was apprenticed to Guy Laroche and also worked with Givenchy.
In 1969, he moved to New York and worked with Geoffrey Beene. His first small collection in New York included T-shirts dyed with Japanese tattoo designs and sashiko-embroidered coats.
He returned to Tokyo in 1970 where he set up the Miyake Design Studio, a high-end producer of women’s fashion. He began applying Eastern fabrication techniques to, and delicately subverting, conventional Western fashion.

He showed in Paris for the first time in 1973 and became a regular, paving the way for other avant-garde designers, particularly Japanese ones, such as Rei Kawakubo of Commerce Des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto- “The Big Three”. This experimental type of fashion was something very new in Europe.
"I realized that my very disadvantage- lack of western heritage- would also be my advantage. I was free of Western tradition or convention… The lack of western tradition was the very thing I needed to create contemporary and universal fashion."
Equally, he said that "When I first began working in Japan, I had to confront the Japanese people's excessive worship for foreign goods and the fixed idea of what clothes ought to be. I wanted to change the rigid formula of clothing that the Japanese followed."

In the 1980s, he experimented with new methods of pleating that would allow flexibility of movement and ease of care for the wearer. He did the costumes for Ballet Frankfurt with polyester jersey permanently pleated into place. After studying how the they moved, he sent 200-300 garments to the dancers of ‘The Loss of Small Detail’, so that they could wear a different costume in each performance. This lead to the development of the ‘Pleats, Please’ range in 1993, his most commercially successful collection.

We have some Pleats Please items in the shop:

He also had a friendship with Apple’s Steve Jobs and produced 100 black turtlenecks for him, which became part of Jobs’ signature look.
He created ‘A-POC’ (a piece of cloth) in 1999, a seamless, single-piece garment cut from a tube of fabric that could be worn multiple ways.

The Issey Miyake brand broke the boundaries between East and West and pursued “the body, the fabric covering it, and a comfortable relationship between the two” as a fundamental concept, both shocking and also resonating with people the world over.
He co-founded 21 21 DESIGN SIGHT in 2012, Japan’s first design museum.

Below: An 80s blue check Miyake shirt from the shop. 

Vintage 1980s Issey Miyake Men's Blue Check Cotton Oversized Button-Up Shirt

Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada was born in Japan. He enrolled at Tokyo's Bunka Fashion College in 1958, which had then just opened its doors to male students.
He was greatly influenced by Parisian designers, especially Yves Saint Laurent. He moved to Paris in 1964, initially struggling while selling sketches of designs to fashion houses for 25 Francs each and working as a stylist at a textile manufacturer. 

He made his first collection in 1970 with just $200 worth of fabric bought at Montmartre and named his brand Jungle Jap. Inspired by painter Henri Rousseau, Takada painted the interior of his shop with a jungle-like floral aesthetic.
He changed the brand name to Kenzo after controversy in the United States about the use of the word ‘Jap’. 
In 1973-74, he made perhaps his biggest mark on fashion by leading a silhouette change; loosening and increasing the volume of the popular peasant styles of the time to create what came to be called the "Big Look," with "big" meaning voluminous. It soon became the main high fashion trend of the mid-1970s, a period during which he was cited as originating a number of other major trends. 

He became known for fusing Asian influenced style with European construction and also for fearless pattern mixing and vibrant colour use. 

In 1976, he opened his flagship store in Place Des Victoire. 
Takada proved his sense of dramatic appearance when, in 1978 and 1979, he held his shows in a circus tent, finishing with horsewomen performers wearing transparent uniforms and he himself riding an elephant.
Takada's business flourished into the 1980s and 90s. He then retired in 1999 to pursue a career in art. 
In 2013, Kenzo joined the Asian Couture Federation as the organisation's inaugural Honorary President.
He was honored by a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 55th Fashion Editors' Club of Japan Awards in 2017.
He occasionally ventured back into fashion such as in 2019 when he designed costumes for a production of Madama Butterfly by the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation.
In January 2020, Takada announced that he would be launching a new lifestyle brand named K3.
He sadly passed away in October 2020 at 81 years old from complications due to Covid-19.

Below: An 80s Kenzo skirt from the shop. 

Vintage 1980s Kenzo Sea Foam Green Silk Midi-Skirt , W32"

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto was born in Tokyo in 1943. He originally studied law but ended up helping his mother with her dressmaking business. He went on to study fashion and gained his degree in 1969. He debuted his first collection in Tokyo in 1977 under the label ‘Y’s’. Yamamoto said of his designs, "I think that my men's clothes look as good on women as my women's clothing […] When I started designing, I wanted to make men's clothes for women."

He has become known for avant grade tailoring featuring Japanese design aesthetics. His signature oversized silhouettes often feature drapery in varying textures, with collections mainly in black. He described black as a colour choice that says "I don't bother you – don't bother me".

He opened his first shop in Paris in the early 80s and presented his first high-end line there in 1981. Along with his contemporary Rei Kawakubo, he shocked the world with clothing that appeared to be unfinished, tattered, and haphazardly put together.
The designs of Yamamoto paralleled the rise of punk fashions and street style, and their connection with mid-twentieth-century urban degradation.

Wim Wenders produced a documentary about Yamamoto in 1989 entitled ‘Notebook on Cities and Clothes’. 

As the 80s drew to a close, Yamamoto fell into a self professed decline of creativity for a few years until the mid 90s. His designs became very different to his former work, blending street style with Victorian romanticism.
He was honoured as international designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in New York City in June 2000.
Much of the couture clothing he designed in the early 2000s were works of wearable art. 

In 2008, the Yohji Yamamoto Fund for Peace was established to foster development of China's fashion industry and to help heal the long-standing enmity between Japan and China.
France awarded him the commander of ‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in 2011, in recognition of his contribution to the Arts. 

Below: a Yamamoto blazer we had in the shop:

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