Rei Kawakubo on the “energy of anger”
“I get angry and work hard every day and night. That’s the least of what I can do now.”
Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942)
Kawakubo’s answer was that she hasn’t stopped working for a minute. “I strongly fear that once I take a break from my work of creation, I won’t be able to get back there again, that I won’t be able to move forward anymore,” she wrote over email. Comme des Garçons has had 30 percent of its staff come to work every day, and Kawakubo herself has gone to work every day from “early in the morning,” she said.
But Kawakubo hasn’t only been motivated by the fear of losing her creative momentum. “This world is full of injustice and absurdity,” she told Horyn. “I put this energy of anger into creation. I get angry and work hard every day and night. That’s the least of what I can do now.”
I like that attitude, and I feel like it’s something the rest of us could try to emulate. I’ve been seeing so many expressions of exhaustion, weariness, loss of concentration, and lack of drive among creative people—which is very understandable! But perhaps the more appropriate response right now is white-hot rage. Especially here in the United States, where we’re in the midst of a deadly pandemic with no end in sight, and our leaders are for the most part exhibiting utter incompetence if not outright deception.
As Kawakubo suggests, our individual creative endeavors can feel like small beer in the face of global catastrophe—but when we’re all being inundated with so much lazy thinking, lack of imagination, and outright bullshit, I truly believe that anything that pushes forward the values of creativity, intelligence, and whimsy is urgently necessary.
A HUNGRY MIND
Over the weekend, I spent some time going through old interviews with Kawakubo. Below, some of my favorite quotes and exchanges from the notoriously publicity-averse (and sometimes hilariously curt) designer.