Comme des Garçons
Behind the Seams
Rei Kawakubo always had a passion for design but never considered it as a full-time project until the self-taught creator started to garner traction on her newly developed designs. At the time, her outlook on fashion was completely different from the norm and defied what current artists were producing when it came to fashion. Her styles were comfortable and more of a functional fit for women as she wanted to introduce non-conforming styles just like the men’s section. To introduce her original collection, she also made a statement with the coinciding name. Comme des Garçons was introduced in 1969 and when translated, the name means ‘like boys’ in French. Rei Kakwakubo not only introduced Comme des Garçons to the public but also started a movement that questioned the typical female designs. Comme des Garçons started as an idea for Kawakubo but over time it became more of a goal to achieve as she saw potential in an unfulfilled market during that time. Since its inception, the fashion label has revolutionized women, men, and even kids’ clothing as Kawakubo started to extend her hand into a variety of fashion lines. In addition to her trailblazing history, Kawakubo would work alongside notorious designers and brands that would only solidify the French name and make Comme des Garçons a sought-after and well-respected label within the industry.
When Rei Kawakubo first introduced Comme des Garçons, she primarily focused on womenswear. The line is still prevalent to this day as it is known for being the original line but with time, Kawakubo tested her skills and introduced a coinciding collection. Comme des Garçons Noir and Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons were introduced in the mid 80s, early 90s. Highlighting more grunge and edgy aesthetic, the women’s line evolved into more than just everyday clothing but also statement pieces. Many enjoyed her brash outlook and in 1984, she expanded her projects into menswear and launched Comme des Garçons Homme Plus. This would eventually become the brand’s main menswear line and include subtle spin-offs including the Plus Sport (an athletic-themed line) and Evergreen (a collection that re-invents styles from past collections.) During the 80s-90s, Rei Kawakubo kept herself busy in order to grow her brand which eventually paid off. One of the most prevalent names being Comme des Garçons SHIRT. Predominantly focused on simplified graphics and elevated t-shirts, the collection was highly sought after as Kawakubo’s premium touch was given to everyday apparel. This line would then evolve into a boys and girls line and become the first introduction of children’s clothing for CDG. Because of its growing popularity, she then refocused her efforts and created a casual streetwear line that appealed to the younger generation; this collection would be known as Comme des Garçons PLAY.
Comme des Garçons PLAY has changed the world for Kawakubo as it drew attention to the upcoming fashion enthusiast and young stylist. If the name doesn’t ring a bell then the logo might- a big red heart with bug-eyes usually decorates each piece within the collection. Developed by a close friend and artist, Filip Pagowski, the motif became a prominent notion within each design. The New York graphic designer has previously worked with Kawakubo and initially wanted this logo for another collection but eventually held off on the idea. When creating PLAY, Kawakubo remembered this distinct design and wanted to make it the face of the line. The PLAY category has developed a cult following over the years as it has introduced everyday casual styles with elevated finishes and the iconic heart and eyes motif. Each design features top quality fabrics and processes for a premium touch.
In addition to her solo ventures, she also recruited help from top designers known as Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara. Junya Watanabe got his start within the industry alongside Kawakubo. He would introduce the initial menswear line, Comme des Garçons Homme, and reinvent traditional styles to fit the Comme aesthetic. Watanabe would then release Comme des Garçons Man Pink and Robe de Chambre; niche lines that garnered attention during its launch. Junya Watanabe has grown within the industry as well but still works in tandem with Kawakubo on special collections and releases. Another highly respected designer that joined the Comme team during the early 2000s is Tao Kurihara. Her whimsical approach to edgy apparel really spoke to Kawakubo, allowing her to develop her own label under the Comme des Garçons umbrella. Best known for her Tao Comme des Garçons line that launched in 2005, she has become prominent under the umbrella as she has also become design director for the Tricot line. Rei Kawakubo is not only known for her way with clothing but also the people she’s involved with as she has taken many aspiring designers under her wing in hopes they would grow. Other names include Fumito Ganryu, Junichi Abe, and Kei Ninomiya.
Since her initial debut within the fashion industry in 1973, Kawakubo has become the template in a variety of categories. Because of her renowned work, she has partnered with other labels as well. Well-known names include Nike, H&M, North Face, K-Way, and Stussy. Many aspire to team up with these brands and Comme des Garçon was able to achieve this goal in many ways. Kawakubo moved the needle in fashion as she introduced her very own version of the iconic Air Force 1 in partnership with Nike. Top brands including Off-White were also given this opportunity but Kawakubo’s was a spectacle as it introduced translucent panels at the sides.
As successful as her collaboration was with Nike, the longest ongoing project to date is between her fashion empire and Converse. For over a decade the duo has introduced different renditions of the signature All-Star Chuck 70. Developed with premium midweight canvas, each sneaker is designed with the iconic heart eye motif. The sneaker typically takes on neutral colorways but recently they have introduced bold colors including pink, lime green, and even a vibrant blue. The Comme des Garçons x Converse collaboration is one of the most popular projects to date and is immensely sought-after by sneaker and fashion enthusiasts alike. Featured in a low cut or high top variant, the footwear highlights singular or multi versions of the iconic heart. To shop the latest sneaker arrivals from Comme des Garçons x Converse, click here.
Coinciding with apparel and footwear, Rei Kawakubo has also released sub-labels of accessories and fragrances. Comme des Garçons WALLET has been a go-to line as Rei Kawakubo implements her eccentric ideology onto classic everyday pieces. A play on patterns and bold branding decorates wallets and cardholders for a unique finish. The Comme des Garçons PARFUM line is also a favorite as Kawakubo was able to conceptualize her mindset into casual and elevated scents. Some of the most popular fragrances being Eau De Parfum Wonderoud and Rouge Eau Du Parfum. The PLAY category also includes sought-after perfumes making them the perfect addition to casual lineups and styles. To showcase her perfumes and other designs, the grand opening of her store took place in 2004. Originally opened in London, Dover Street Market can now be found in Tokyo, New York, Singapore, Beijing, and Los Angeles.
Rei Kawakubo has built an empire and it all started with her attempt to be just like the boys. The fashion label continues to produce seasonally relevant styles and collections and can also be seen on the runway or red carpet. Kawakubo’s Japanese roots contributed to her Avant-garde approach to couture allowing her to surpass many others within the same realm. Grab a closer look at the new arrivals from Comme des Garçons here.