Rei Kawakubo really gets me. The CFDA International Award winner and designer behind the eternally cool, cult-classic Japanese label Comme des Garçons has rolled out another genius collection that tugs at the pop culture heartstrings of children raised in the ’90s. As a follow-up to the label’s clever collaboration with American cartoonist and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, CDG presents the Where’s Waldo? (or Where’s Wally? if you’re in the UK) collection: a salute to the 25th anniversary of British Illustrator Martin Handford’s celebrated franchise.
According to the Telegraph, the super limited-edition capsule (as in, only 17 pieces have been produced of each style) features men’s and women’s tees and scarves with all-over prints reminiscent of scenes from the iconic cartoon. And yes, each piece include’s a cameo from the namesake star, decked out in his memorable red and white striped sweater and bobble beanie.
The CDG x Where’s Waldo? collection is stocked exclusively at most CDG boutiques, which means, unless you race to their sole NY outpost right this second, statesiders will have to wait until pieces start popping up on eBay. (But the pricey range already retails in-store for £160 ($248) to £305 ($473), so I can only imagine what items will cost once prices are jacked up online.)
"She says couldn’t think of anything new, so she decided not to make any clothes," said Adrian Joffe backstage, translating for wife and Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo.
Words we would find to be gibberish from any other designer, we’ll accept gleefully from Kawakubo, whose collections are rarely wearable (though editors often try). Inventive and pushing the boundaries for what truly makes fashion, Kawakubo’s designs would hardly be knocked off by Zara or Forever 21, but maybe that’s part of the point. In this fast fashion world, where creativity is shoved aside in the way of retail and mass consumption, it’s sort of lovely to slow down and appreciate a runway show for what it is, and what only Rei could make it.
The objects each model wore existed because Kawakubo felt like she couldn’t make clothing new, and wouldn’t fall into the ease of reinterpreting or reimagining something she had already done – very different from so many designers who riff on past collections in order to maintain a brand identity.
Kawakubo presents a childlike creativity in that it disregards limitations and ignores any sense of conformity. You won’t find parallels between Comme des Garçons and other spring collections. If Kawakubo isn’t showing clothes, she’s still showing a major outpouring of creative effort, one duly noted by her legions of fans and an appreciative fashion world.
Comme des Garçons is turning 40 this year. In honor of the brand’s anniversary, the Japanese institution is introducing a temporary brand simply titled “black,” which will include 10 standalone stores intended to bring “positive energy” in hard economic times, says the New York Times. In true Comme des Garçons style, the brand will be serving up the collections in question “guerilla-style” in a manner “that epitomizes the style, the inventiveness and the originality of its founder,” the iconic Rei Kawakubo (then slowly phasing them out over the next 18 months). While Kawakubo may not be a household name outside of the fashion industry, the reach of her sartorial influence is extremely significant. “Integral to her success is that she is too original to be pigeonholed,” says Suzy Menkes. Respected by the art community as well as fashion, Kawakubo “has also built an independent fashion company with a turnover of $180 million in 2008, yet with an international reputation for creativity unsullied by commerce.” Not to mention, her Dover Street Market store is best described as a “hive of creativity.”
Also on the calendar for Comme des Garçons this month: an exhibition at Colette and a collaboration with Vogue Nippon. Partnerships and collaborations are seemingly endless in the world of Comme des Garçons (Kawakubo has teamed up with everyone from Levis, Lacoste, and Speedo to Italy’s 10 Corso Como boutique), yet the brand’s image has been anything but diluted over the years. Kawakubo’s secret: “her level of control has not ceded one iota in 40 years.” Yet, if forced to choose a title for what she does, Kawakubo would describe herself as a journalist before a designer or artist. “I like to tell a story. Without news, nothing is alive. The final result of everything must say something. Information deepens the work.”
Hang on to your chapeaus — Comme des Garçons for H&M has arrived! Well, in Japan at least. The monumental fashion collaboration debuted Saturday in Tokyo in conjunction with the opening of a new Harajuku H&M boutique. Designboom turned me on to a British Vogue video of the opening day chaos, as well as interviews with fashion heavyweights about the uniqueness and precedent set by the collection. And talk about some seriously dedicated fans. Exceedingly stylish Japanese young things captured on camera talk about waiting in line to see the much-anticipated collection (some of whom camped out days in advance and suffered through wind and rain in order to get their hands on Rei Kawakubo’s stylish duds).
The video likewise features some great commentary from fashion photographer and icon Peter Lindberg, who snapped the Comme des Garçons/H&M campaign’s advertisements and muses on why all the girls in his office shop at the Swedish retailer (“Probably because I don’t pay them enough”), as well as the Daily Telegraph’s Hilary Alexander talking about why the collection is so sensational (Kawakubo’s press shyness and appeal to fashionistas who prefer their clothes served with a side of intellect included). It’s also worth watching if you’re looking to get amped up for the line’s stateside debut this Thursday, November 13 (and, since you’re neither Nicky Hilton nor Katie Holmes, it will likely provide some much-needed motivation if you’re considering braving what are sure to be some lengthy opening-day lines). Until then, good luck figuring out which two items (H&M is instituting a two-garment purchase limit) you’ll be swooping up once inside.
This year is loaded with legendary fashion anniversaries. Not only did Calvin Klein fete its 40th during New York Fashion Week, but Masison Martin Margiela just rung in its 20th with an exhibition in Antwerp. But now, it’s Comme des Garçons’ turn to celebrate. Like Margiela, Comme des Garçons is commemorating its birthday with an exhibition in London.
Entitled “Printed Matter” and on view through November 22, the show is housed in the brand’s Dover Street Market store. On display are 40 years of CdG images — “ad campaigns, pages from SIX magazine (which CdG published from 1988-91) and the work of Argentinean art collective Mondongo,” says Hintmag.com. Considering Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo already collaborated with Louis Vuitton this year for a project honoring the French fashion house’s 30th anniversary, and the designer is releasing her capsule line for H&M in just a few short weeks, it looks like Kawakubo’s fall is chock-full of excuses to celebrate.
Rei Kawakubo doesn’t care to have her photo taken. The Commes des Garçons visionary would rather allow her designs — unusual, asymmetrical aversions to traditional beauty — speak for themselves. And so they have. When first discovered on a Parisian catwalk in 1981, her idiosyncratic pieces were cast aside as “Hiroshima chic.” But Kawakubo stuck with it, clothing subcultures throughout the streets of Tokyo until being embraced by vanguard sartorialists and cutting-edge outsiders in North America, inspiring such modern iconoclasts as Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela along the way.
Over the years, she has refused to compromise on her vision — the tattered edges remain, the hand-painted polka dots are as prominent as ever, and Kawakubo’s decided thumbing of her nose at convention continues to multiply exponentially (take, for example, 1998’s Odeur 53 fragrance, with its whiff of nail polish and burnt rubber).
Kawakubo’s latest shocker comes in the form of a ready-to-wear collection designed in collaboration with Swedish retail monolith H&M. Of the unlikely partnership, she says, “I was interested in selling Comme des Garçons to people who have never heard of the name. Reactions from our loyal customers have been great. Finding the right balance between the creative and the commercial has always been my work. The two are not necessarily opposed.”
Included in the collection, available worldwide next month, are Kawakubo’s signature dots, along with a goth-doll dress, double-breasted belted trench coat, bias-cut suits and canvas shoes. But what of Kawakubo’s eccentric design daredevilry? Surely that flies out the window when one partners with a mega-brand recognized for its denim and holiday gift-cards? Says Kawakubo, “The collection is constructed around Comme des Garçons’ style. Rather than aiming to make clothes that no one has ever seen before, it is very much Comme des Garçons to its roots. My priority has always been creativity, which was not the least bit compromised with this collection. That was the last thing H&M wanted us to do. Otherwise they wouldn’t have asked us.”
A capsule line for H&M isn’t the only headline-grabbing collaboration from Commes de Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo that’ll be taking the fashion industry by storm this fall. In fact, Kawakubo has partnered with the logo lover’s brand of choice, Louis Vuitton. In honor of the LV’s 30th anniversary, Commes de Garcon’s outpost in Tokyo’s Omotesando district will house a temporary store within the store that pays homage to LV’s ubiquitous monogram.
For three months, a collection of LV’s iconic trunks will be on display. And as long as supplies last, so will a series of six one-off bags inspired by Kawakubo’s “love of the brand.” Unfortunately, for all of those prospective buyers stuck in New York for Fashion Week, the limited-edition bags will hit the store’s floor Thursday, September 11. It’s best to start kissing up to your Tokyo-based friends now, as these bags are not going to last long. Of course, you could always imagine the perfect designer bacon breakfast yielded from these Vuitton-branded pigs.