The enigmatic Rei Kawakubo speaks to WWD in a very rare interview. Without doubt one of the most influential people in fashion over the past 2 decades, this is a small glimpse into the way she thinks…

WWD: You often say your mission is to create clothes that never existed. Do you ever feel you are exhausting the possibilities?
Rei Kawakubo:
 “As the weight of experience piles up, it has become increasingly difficult to find yet new ways of thinking and to make new things.”

WWD: Many people become more conservative, less daring, as they get older. How about you?
 “I think the media has some responsibility to bear for people becoming more conservative. Many parts of the media have created the situation where uninteresting fashion can thrive.”

WWD: Are your collections personal—about what you want to wear, or how you are feeling? Where does the impulse come from?
“My intention is not to make clothes. My head would be too restricted if I only thought about making clothes.”

WWD: Was “Crush” any commentary on your flat, two-dimensional fall collection? Or did the idea come from somewhere else?
 “I can honestly never remember clearly what I was thinking about at the time. I was only trying to make something completely new. There is never more meaning than that. I was not thinking about the age of Internet when I was making the fall-winter 2012 collection.”

WWD: Surely it’s not possible to produce a collection like “Crush” by sketching. Do you always drape, always sketch, a combo of the two, or some other approach?
“Yes, you’re right. I made this collection on a table, and worked on the clothes like a sculptor would work on a sculpture. It was all made by hand.”

WWD: If you could have invented one garment, what would it be, and why?
 “I would have liked to invent the plain white shirt, with a skirt and pants to go with it.”

WWD: Fashion today seems to be more about big business and profits than pure creative expression. Do you agree, and if so, how do you feel about it?
 “Yes, it’s true.…And it’s weakening the power of creation. This is the worst of situations.”

WWD: You helped popularize design collaborations. Is it still a stimulating and fruitful path for you?
 “I am always thinking that some interesting possibility, some accidental synergy could occur in a collaboration, and people seem to like it. Even though it is difficult, it is easier for me to make my own things, by myself.”

WWD: You’ve also become a global, multibrand retailer with Dover Street Market. Has this shaped your approach to design?
 “I run a business as well, so we need ways to grow and develop, but this has not changed the way I approach design in any way whatsoever. My sense of values has not wavered since I founded the company 43 years ago.”

WWD: Do you ever worry about designing a collection that won’t sell, or that is difficult to sell?
 “Every day I think about the selling, but when doing a collection, all I want is for people to feel the power.”