Chairs / Not Chairs

Rei Kawakubo’s Rare Furniture Designs

Wright
Wright
Mar 7, 2019 · 3 min read

Rei Kawakubo’s furniture designs were first made in 1984 “to create a complete environmental setting for [her] clothes” in the Comme des Garçons stores. Her first designs were chairs made of steel and granite, made as unique examples or in limited quantities. A small number of collections were created up until 1990, when a now very rare catalog of her furniture designs was released. Around 1987, when the present lot was produced, Kawakubo had opened up a short-lived Comme des Garçons furniture store in Paris that was later made into the brand’s perfume store.

1990 Comme des Garçons furniture catalog. © Image: Idea

In 1988, Kawakubo debuted the designs in the United States for the first time at City, an avant-garde store in Chicago, as well as at the only Comme des Garçons location in the states, in San Francisco. Barry Bursak, the owner of City, remarked that “to say these chairs aren’t comfortable isn’t accurate…they are exquisite. When you sit in a chair and it makes you sit a certain way, it gives you a certain elegance. In that sense, these chairs are extraordinary.” Kawakubo recommends, of the chairs, that they “can come to [their] true essence when placed in an environment that is not too pretentious.” She insisted that for the opening, the chairs at City be displayed in a big pile.

Chair №1 in the 1990 Comme des Garçons furniture catalog

It is an undeniable fact that design is reflective of the designer`s personality. Though I do not view myself as harsh and stark. If I must characterize the essence of my furniture design, it is: simplicity. — Rei Kawakubo

The first Comme des Garçons store in Tokyo, 1976

Her chair designs echo many aesthetic and conceptual touchstones of the Comme des Garçons brand in the 1980s; while day-glo, spandex and “power dressing” dominated mainstream fashion, Kawakubo opted for a nearly all-black palette, austere and industrial textures, and forms that reconfigured the body. Kawakubo has said of her designs for Comme des Garçons: “If we say these are clothes, it’s all very usual, so we said, these are not clothes. It sounds like a Zen dialogue but it is very simple.” The same can be said of her chairs, which can neither be categorized as simply sculpture or furniture; these works engage with the themes Kawakubo has been working through her entire career — construction and deconstruction, the transgression of shape and material, and mu, or, “no thing,” where boundaries on what something is do not exist.

Comme des Garçons collections from the 1980s

On March 21st, 2019 Wright presents two rare chair designs by Rei Kawakubo at auction.

Rare chairs by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons (lot 100 & 101), c. 1987 | Photos by Wright

Wright

Stories of art and design from an industry leading auction…

Wright

Written by

Wright

An industry leading auction house dedicated to 20th and 21st century art and design. Wright brings fresh works to the market in innovative ways.

Wright

Wright

Stories of art and design from an industry leading auction house.

Wright

Written by

Wright

An industry leading auction house dedicated to 20th and 21st century art and design. Wright brings fresh works to the market in innovative ways.

Wright

Wright

Stories of art and design from an industry leading auction house.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store