Although Comme des Garcons is a French phrase, the brand is actually a Japanese fashion label founded by Rei Kawakubo in Paris. Comme des Garcons translates to “like the boys” in French.
Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo, Japan, and was the daughter of a University professor. After graduating from University herself, Kawakubo began working for a textile manufacturer in the advertising department. She would help choose props and costumes for their photoshoots. Later she became a freelance stylist, where she would design her own clothing for assignments. It was in 1969 that Rei Kawakubo founded Comme des Garcons even though she didn’t have any formal fashion training or experience.
Inspiration and Aesthetic
Kawakubo explains it was the loose rustic clothing of Japanese fishermen and the poor that inspired her early designs for Comme des Garcons. During their 1981 debut show in Paris, it was Rei Kawakubo’s heavy use of black, distressed fabrics, and unfinished seams that were negatively viewed by the fashion world. In 1982 they released a collection named “Destroy” that was also heavily criticized for the same reasons.
They became known as having a distressed, punk style, with an avant garde aesthetic. Their clothing was oversized, deconstructed, shapeless, asymmetrical, and people didn’t know how to wear them, yet people were buying them. They received really negative reviews in magazines but continued their work despite them. Kawakubo has expressed that while she’s not influenced by what’s happening in fashion or culture, she gets her inspiration from her everyday life.
Comme des Garcons have been able to put out whatever clothes they want because they are privately owned. This, combined with being in Japan takes away the pressure from the fashion world to conforming their designs into something that just isn’t them.
Rei Kawakubo created several sub-lines like Comme des Garcons Homme, Comme des Garcons SHIRT, and Comme des Garcons Comme des Garcons to name a few, the latter of which was made to sell more affordable basics. They also came out with a line called Comme des Garcons PLAY in 2002, which was an international success.
Comme des Garcons PLAY
Comme des Garcons’ most mainstream label is the PLAY line in which all of their items feature their signature logo of a red heart with eyes on it. This collection is known for its casual, youthful, luxury aesthetic. Comme des Garcons PLAY has even reached streetwear culture, as it’s popularity has skyrocketed. The PLAY collection is casual, with T-shirts starting at about $100, making it Comme des Garcons’ most affordable line. Aside from clothes they’ve expanded the line to include accessories and perfumes as well. The line is sold at department stores like Nordstrom and Saks 5th Ave, and it never goes on sale or gets marked down to a discount because the line is seasonless. The line is available for men, women, and children.
This label has had several collaborations including ones with Matt Groening, A Bathing Ape, Louis Vuitton, and Nike. The PLAY line even has a collaboration with Converse, which happens to be Comme des Garcons longest running collaboration.
This collection has garnered a huge fan base since its launch in 2002, with many often noting that those who wear it are “instantly part of the cult Comme des Garcons club.”
The PLAY line has become Comme des Garcons’ most successful label bringing in 12% of the fashion brands revenue.
The PLAY Logo
The logo was created by a New York based graphic design artist, Filip Pagowski, who had been a longtime fan of Comme des Garcons. He had pitched the design to them before for something else but then never came to fruition. The logo ended up coming out later for the PLAY line, which has become such a huge success. The logo is made use in several ways, from small patches on the left of the chest of a t-shirt, to multiple collage positionings.
The PLAY logo has become synonymous with the Comme des Garcons brand. It’s incredibly hard not to recognize it. Once you do see it, you instantly know that whatever it’s branded on, it is a Comme des Garcons’ item.
Rei Kawakubo is constantly challenging fashion norms through her Comme des Garcons brands, and even by creating her own department store called Dover Street Market. At this department store not only do they sell their own lines, but they sell anything from Celine to items from newly graduated fashion designers. This is because Kawakubo has this idea of only stocking designers she believes in no matter if they have a huge following or not. She continues to stay true to her unique roots, and has even said that it would not be interesting if everyone wore the same clothes. She wants to encourage people to be courageous and to try different things.
Kawakubo’s attention to detail is another reason Comme des Garcons has amassed so much success. From being involved in the graphic designs, to advertising, and the interior of her stores, she makes sure she oversees and has had an input in every aspect of the brand. Without her meticulous approach to her brand, Comme des Garcons would not be where it is today.