Rei Kawakubo continues to be an enigma

Rei Kawakubo has a theory. It has to do with filling space and emptying it. “The void is important,” says the founder of Commes des Garçons. Kawakubo’s stark designs, generally done in gray and black, reflect this philosophy, taking simplicity to its final resolution in fashion, furniture, and interior decoration. Rather than embellish fabrics, Kawakubo will cut holes in them. Rather than polishing materials, she leaves their surfaces rough.

Born 43 years ago in Tokyo, Kawakubo began Comme des Garçons in 1973, after studying textile manufacture and working as a freelance stylist. Beginning with womenswear, she established the Homme menswear collection five years later, and now shows all of her lines twice a year in Paris. This spring, Commes des Garçons will present a formalwear collection for the first time–Kawakubo’s persona attempt to redefine evening dress. “I want something that can be crumpled and squeezed into one’s bag by day, unrumpled and worn at night,” says the designer. “Without makeup.