It is a brave designer who has a show one night, and then another the next morning. But Rei Kawakubo is definitively brave. On Saturday evening, she showed her eagerly anticipated mainline women's collection. Themed MONSTER, Kawakubo described her vision as "not the typical Monster you find in sci-fi and video games [but] the craziness of humanity, the fear we all have, the feeling of going beyond common sense, the absence of ordinariness, expressed by something extremely big, by something that could be ugly or beautiful. Just over 12 hours later, she presented her Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons collection.
Sunday morning's show, a much more intimate affair, takes place each season at the company's Place Vendôme headquarters, and is not part of the official show schedule. Most people don't even know it happens. A small handful of photographers and buyers from across the world, including those from the Comme des Garçons stores, watch the small presentation alongside the ever affable CDG president Adrian Joffe. There are two rows of seats on either side of the models' walkway, and a row of standing space. "We've always had mini floor shows for the staff," says Joffe. "But we've only recently opened out."
In an interview in 1995 for Dazed & Confused, Kawakubo spoke of her children: "[I have] 425. They all work at Comme des Garçons." What the Comme Comme show does is draw to light Kawakubo's "children". Backstage, Kawakubo works with her design team. Out front, the Comme des Garçons retail team – no less important in the Comme des Garçons family – begin to make careful decisions about the season ahead. These representatives may even be the ones who serve loyal customers as they invest in their next pieces. They are all dressed in various seasons and lines (there are 16 in total); a vast swathe of navy and black.
"Comme des Garçons' main line is Rei's creation, Comme Comme is Rei's style. It’s what she wears every day" — Adrian Joffe
So what approach is given to a low key, off schedule show, directed at buyers? I wondered if there would be music? If they'd bother with surreal hair and make-up or keep the models natural? All boxes were ticked – proof that Kawkubo believes in their importance in the presentation process (although when in the studio, the designer works in silence). The models' hair was matted, shrouded with patches of shrunken plastic. Dirty Projectors' 2010 colllaboration with Björk was the choice of soundtrack. "Our home is all around us/Our love is all around us,” sings the Icelandic icon on the joyous opening track. The band's Dave Longstreth described Björk’s role on the EP as that of the mother whale with the secondary trio as her daughters.
The line Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons, often referred to as "Comme Comme", first launched in 1993, the same year as Junya Watanabe. The title gives an indication to the philosophy of the brand: repetition. Think of the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Comme Comme is essentially the heart of CDG, starring the classics that Kawakubo loves to revisit time and time again. Cardigans, shirts, blazers, dropped crotch pants. They are there each season, each time with a clever unconventional twist. The items are timeless. Whilst CDG mainline can present key themes and big hits, Comme Comme allows Kawakubo to focus on the classic codes at the heart of her brand. Joffe describes it thus: "Comme des Garçons' main line is Rei's creation, Comme Comme is Rei's style. It’s what she wears every day. It’s for the customers aged 15 to 75 who like CDG style."
It's proof of Kawakubo's extraordinary craftsmanship then, that with a line like Comme Comme – which is essentially twists on basic items of clothing – one can still get stirred up. Beautiful in its simplicity, it's a direct contrast to the mood Kawkubo created the previous evening. The new A/W collection offers up khaki suiting with brilliantly cut blazers; a black hoodie twisted at the zip in typical CDG fashion; a black velvet padded jacket; a streamlined, padded navy cape. Various reworkings of the white shirt including a standout design featuring a strip of carnation-type frills across the chest. The 3/4 length skirts, a hemline which Kawakubo has remained loyal too, is perfectly in keeping with the mood of the season.
Text by Laura Bradley