When Rei Kawakubo gave her debut at Paris Fashion Week with Comme des Garçons in 1981, it sent shockwaves through the world of fashion. Today, the Japanese designer is widely recognized as one of the most influential figures in the industry.
Comme des Garçons was founded by Rei Kawakubo in Tokyo in 1969. Though the name translates as “like boys” from French, Kawakubo rather chose the name because she liked the way it sounded. Her avant-garde designs are unconventional with her revolutionary collections challenging the idealized female figure.
From 1981, Comme des Garçons started showing its collections in Paris. The aesthetic deliberately distanced itself from the sexualized silhouettes and glamour of haute couture in the French capital during the 1980s.
Titled “Destroy”, the debut collection consisted of black garments with frayed seams, pulled threads, tears and holes, derogatively dubbed “Hiroshima chic” by critics. What she considered strong and beautiful was deemed dark and destructive.
It took a while for the fashion world to understand Rei Kawakubo’s emotionally laden work. She is notoriously withdrawn, rarely giving interviews and puzzling journalists with a few cryptic words to explain the intent behind her work. In an interview with Vogue’s Olivia Singer she declared, “I make clothes for strong women. Women who wouldn’t necessarily care what their husband thinks – or a lot of other people.”
Her philosophy certainly applies to “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” from 1997. Arguably one of her most famous collections, it features dresses with padded humps at shoulders and hips, distorting the female figure in a way, that is almost unpleasant to look at.
The menswear line Comme des Garçons Homme was introduced in 1978. Today, it is led by Kawakubo’s protegee Junya Watanabe, who began his apprenticeship as a patternmaker at CDG in 1984. Watanabe elegantly applies Japanese philosophy and techniques to classic casual menswear staples.
Over the years, the Japanese fashion house has introduced various other sublabels, that are more easily accessible. Comme des Garçons Shirt is a line of men’s shirts and essentials also headed by Rei Kawakubo, first launched in 1988. While the handmade garments are produced exclusively in France, the non-handmade garments of the sublabels are either made in Japan, Spain or Turkey.
Play Comme des Garçons is the most recognizable mainstream line under the roof of the Japanese fashion house, that relocated to Paris in 1981. The famous heart logo with eyes was created by Polish graphic designer Filip Pągowski. The label is known for its oversized prints and playful patterns with polka dots or stripes. The regular collaborations with Converse on the Chuck Taylor All-Star have become the entry model for fashion conscious sneakerheads.
In 1994, the fashion house released its first perfume under the name Comme des Garçons. Many more have followed since under the Comme des Garçons Perfum label, often exploring a concept or theme. Most fragrances are unisex, with a few scents specifically dedicated for men or women.
The Comme des Garçons Wallet line includes accessories, such as wallets, purses, bags and accessories. It features a mixture of minimalist design, bright colors and patterns with traditional craftsmanship.