PARIS, France — "The voice of the designer has never been so important in disseminating brand values. Cynically put, he (or she) who shouts the loudest, gets heard the most. Yet whilst Kawakubo's refusal to explain herself has often frustrated her public, her silence has given her voice more power and resonance than any other fashion designer in the industry today," writes Hans Ulrich Obrist of Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo.
Now, for the Autumn/Winter 2013 issue of System magazine, in which Obrist's piece appears, the revolutionary Kawakubo reveals the essence of her creative process — which forms the very heart of the Comme des Garçons company — in a manifesto made exclusively available to BoF.
Going around museums and galleries, seeing films, talking to people, seeing new shops, looking at silly magazines, taking an interest in the activities of people in the street, looking at art, travelling: all these things are not useful, all these things do not help me, do not give me any direct stimulation to help my search for something new. And neither does fashion history. The reason for that is that all these things above already exist.
I only can wait for the chance for something completely new to be born within myself.
The way I go about looking for this from within is to start with a provisional ‘theme.’ I make an abstract image in my head. I think paradoxically (oppositely) about patterns I have used before. I put parts of patterns where they don’t usually go. I break the idea of ‘clothes.’ I think about using for everything what one would normally use for one thing. Give myself limitations. I pursue a situation where I am not free. I think about a world of only the tiniest narrowest possibilities. I close myself. I think that everything about the way of making clothes hitherto is no good. This is the rule I always give myself: that nothing new can come from a situation that involves being free or that doesn’t involve suffering.
In order to make this SS14 collection, I wanted to change the usual route within my head. I tried to look at everything I look at in a different way. I thought a way to do this was to start out with the intention of not even trying to make clothes. I tried to think and feel and see as if I wasn’t making clothes.
— Rei Kawakubo, October 2013
The complete text of Hans Ulrich Obrist's interview with Rei Kawakubo appears in the Autumn/Winter 2013 issue of System magazine, which hits newsstands today and includes a Bruce Weber portfolio curated by Dennis Freedman and an interview with Melanie Ward, accompanied by images of her archive shot by Glen Luchford.