Commes des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo doesn’t often give interviews — and the last time she did, she and her interpreter got upset that the reporter gave her words a slight twist. So this interview with The Wall Street Journal went a little differently. Kawakubo took a few questions via email, and the only thing our friends at the Journal had to do was copy and paste her eloquent, straightforward responses.
The interview reads more like a personal essay without direction, primarily because in one fell swoop, Kawakubo addresses her design philosophy, her past, her future, her business and all the many things that business encompasses. From her collaboration with H&M to getting designer Junya Watanabe to design for her label, Kawakubo’s biggest goal has been turning creativity into a business. And she’s been quite good at it.
Below, find a few of our favorite pieces of the interview.
On the business model:
My work has never been as an artist. I have only continued all these years to try to “make a business with creation.” This has been my first and one and only decision of any importance. The decision to first of all think of creating something that didn’t exist before, and then after that to give the creation form and expression in a way that can be made into a business. I cannot separate being a designer from being a businesswoman. It’s one and the same thing for me.
Three sentences about the current state of the fashion industry:
I don’t feel too excited about fashion today, more fearful that people don’t necessarily want or need strong new clothes, that there are not enough of us believing in the same thing, that there is a kind of burnout, that people just want cheap fast clothes and are happy to look like everyone else, that the flame of creation has gone a bit cold, that enthusiasm and passionate anger for change and rattling the status quo is weakening. But what I still love about it is that playing the fool, acting silly, showing off, being a celebrity designer are all integral and necessary parts of the fashion business. And creation excites me, because without creation there can be no progress.
So wait. When does fashion happen?
Fashion is something you attach to yourself, put on, and through that interaction the meaning of it is born. Without the wearing of it, it has no meaning, unlike a piece of art. It is fashion because people want to buy it now, because they want to wear it now, today. Fashion is only the right now.
We suggest you read this interview in full. Right now.