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Comme des Garçons Autumn/Winter 2023
Comme des Garçons Autumn/Winter 2023Courtesy of Comme des Garçons

Michèle Lamy, A$AP Nast and More on Why They Love Wearing Comme des Garçons

Following Comme des Garçons’ Autumn/Winter 2023 show, five longtime wearers of the brand – Michelle Elie, A$AP Nast, Duy Pham, Michèle Lamy and Miki Omori – talk about being part of Rei Kawakubo’s “unspoken cult”

Lead ImageComme des Garçons Autumn/Winter 2023Courtesy of Comme des Garçons

Over the weekend, Rei Kawakubo presented her Autumn/Winter 2023 womenswear collection for Comme des Garçons, Return to the Source, at the American Cathedral in Paris. Following the show, the designer explained of the collection’s Zen koan-like title that she “wanted to use fabrics that existed without thinking about making proper patterns, just basic patterns, free.” Kawakubo, who founded Comme in 1969 in Tokyo, exploded the sartorial canon by doing away with symmetrical cuts that traditionally balanced tailoring in lieu of off-kilter, abstract forms challenging the relationship of garment and body. Was this the source she was returning to?

The collection was presented in 11 chapters: troupes of twos, of threes, and of fours entered a lamplit podium in garments which some have interpreted as a crash review of Kawakubo’s oeuvre. There were hints of her roses, flouncing furbelows, and boxed elemental tailoring that called to mind her infamous 2D silhouettes, amongst other references. The snippets of music accompanying each chapter, which ranged from classical to pop, reinforced for some this idea of gleaning the past as the collection’s inspiration. But in her typical way, Kawakubo was quick to refute any narrative appended to her collection: her source was “the Big Bang.” The beginning of the world – not of her, not of Comme des Garçons, not of any literal understandability.

Kawakubo has always stubbornly affirmed that her garments are the medium of meaning; her shows focus consistently on a spectacle of cloth and of cut, devoid of the superfluous fanfare that accompanies many of today’s fashion shows. To wear her clothes is to interpret, to improvise, to step into the mind of one of the most brilliant designers of our time. 

To celebrate the latest collection, we spoke to five Comme devotees – Michelle Elie, A$AP Nast, Duy Pham, Michèle Lamy and Miki Omori – on why they love wearing her creations.

Michelle Elie, Editor and Comme des Garçons Collector

“It was the 90s and I was living in New York City – I‘m born in Haiti but grew up in New York. I used to go downtown, this was my territory, I didn’t like to go past 14th Street. You had all the galleries downtown and beside them the designers, like Comme des Garçons and Paul Smith. I saw someone at an opening wearing a fabulous jacket with no logo. I asked them where it was from, and they replied ‘Yohji’. So, I had a curiosity for something different, and that led me through the doors of the Comme shop. If you decided to wear Yohji and Comme, then you belonged to a certain unspoken cult.

“The Blue Witches [Spring/Summer 2016] collection is one of my favourites. It’s significant because women like us, or her, we’re easily misunderstood. Even if a woman is powerful in her stance, her work, her world, she can easily be disregarded, and I think this collection looks at so many variations of what it means to be misunderstood. I feel very strong when I wear this collection – I like the strength of those two words together, I like what it represents. But I think I can only really choose my favourite when she’s stopped. Because it takes time to discover her work. I might need ten years to discover a piece I didn’t see properly at first.

“I just want to be catching dreams. And for me, with Comme, I’m just capturing all these dreams that Rei is putting out. I just hope that I can grab them as fast as I can. I don’t know how Rei still has so many surprises up her sleeves after all these years. She’s giving her entire life creating these pieces. The older I’m going to get, the more abstract I want to become. Because I think I’m just one person, but I don’t want to live my life in just that one look. And that’s what Rei can give me.”

A$AP Nast, Musician 

“I first came across Comme as I found a pair of Junya [Watanabe] combat boots in a vintage store in New York … I loved these boots! So, I looked into the brand and discovered Six magazine and started to collect them. From there, I researched into Rei Kawakubo and the whole history of Comme.

“My favourite piece in my Comme collection is … all of them! One of the main things that draws me in is the community and the general aesthetic. When I wear Comme, I feel like I’m wearing art.”

“If you decided to wear Yohji and Comme, then you belonged to a certain unspoken cult” – Michelle Elie

Duy Pham, Graphic Designer and Art Director 

“I first came across Comme through the book Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons by British writer Deyan Sudjic, and from looking at the advertising on the back covers of the old issues of Nest magazine, which I also found by chance. I just thought they were so brilliant, strange, provocative, and even poetic. I got really obsessed with collecting Comme, especially the printed matter, I think, because of these first impressions.

“I have a few favourites: the necklace with realistic plastic animal mouths from the Homme Plus Spring/Summer 2019 collection. The white vinyl vest printed with a photograph by photographer Roger Ballen called ‘Five Hands’ from the Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. All my everyday pants which are from the Homme Plus and Homme Deux collections, are super comfortable and stylish at the same time, and they work well for the New York lifestyle. And, of course, all the books, magazines, posters, and catalogues I’ve been collecting over the years, including the famous Satin bowerbird (that collects only blue objects to make the nest) posters from the 1989 campaign.

“I am drawn to the unexpected details and the surprising construction techniques. The clashing combination of different patterns, textures, and imagery. The celebration of things broken, misshapen and useless. The sense of humour and spirituality being equally present. I feel happy and confident when I wear Comme, but also a bit tough, mysterious, and funny at the same time.”

Michèle Lamy

“I first stumbled upon Rei’s designs at what I think was one of her first pop-ups, right around the time she officially founded Comme des Garçons after using the label unofficially for a few years. It was the beginning of a love story.

“I have a few [favourite pieces from my collection]! The two that come to mind are an incredible piece from Spring/Summer 2014 piece that I am wearing in a photograph taken by Wolfgang Tillmans (featured in Purple’s 25th anniversary issue). And the second one is from Spring/Summer 2016 – I was in New York once on my way to Dover Street Market with Giovanni Bassan and he had to push me into the car because I couldn’t fit through the door! You can see it in this black-and-white photo taken by Pierre Debusschere.

“I just get excited [when I wear Comme]! A visual representation of how I feel when wearing Comme is this picture by Pierre Debusschere. In it, I am wearing a Comme des Garçon gown from the Spring/Summer 2017 collection and Rick Owens shoes.”

Miki Omori, Fashion Designer and Educator 

“My first introduction to Comme des Garçons was through a Japanese magazine named An An in the early 1980s. As I was born in Japan, I vaguely remember that I found Comme de Garçons very early on as a teenager. I recall interviews with Ms Kawakubo’s photo in a lot of magazines at the time. Nowadays, it’s rare for her to appear in an interview article with photos of herself.

“My first piece from Comme is a purple polyester chiffon dress from Tricot Comme des Garçons c.1995. The dress is made with only one pattern – I thought it was a very interesting shape. I still have the dress in my closet. My favourite piece from my wardrobe is the 2D structured kimono coat – in a shocking pink flower print on black base nylon Oxford fabric – from the Spring/Summer 2022 My Present State of Mind Rather Than a Theme collection. When I tried the piece in the Comme Paris Store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, I felt like this piece was made especially for me! I love its pink colour and the shape which is like a cut-out paper doll dress, just like the ones that I was obsessed with as a little girl. It reminds me of how much I’ve loved clothes ever since my childhood.

“If I could add to my wardrobe, I’d love pieces from the Spring/Summer 1997 Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body collection. It is the most avant-garde and innovative collection in fashion history. To see those dresses dancing – I went to see the ballet Scénario choreographed by Merce Cunningham twice in November 2019 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris – it was amazing!

“I admire Rei Kawakubo and her philosophy. I believe fashion is one of the ways to express one’s personality, own life, and oneself. I respect Ms Kawakubo’s sensibility and determination as a designer because she never stops creative exploration. Her artistic clothes are not only art objects but also wearable. She is my idol and the role model of my life. I feel confident and happy wearing Comme. The clothes fit naturally into my life – I wear them every day. I like the feeling of wearing Comme des Garçons because they are pieces of Rei Kawakubo’s ingenuity, conviction, and intelligence.”