7 Fashion Trends COMME des GARÇONS Did First
Since their first harmonious union back in 2012, Supreme x COMME des GARÇONS has spawned a slew of iconic hits, and many drops have guest starred additional Supreme partners like Timberland and Vans.
Before you battle it out to cop the drop, take a few minutes out to appreciate the sensational sorcery of iconoclast Rei Kawkaubo, founder of COMME des GARÇONS and Dover Street Market. This is a designer who has single-handedly rewritten the madness of fashion. To call Kawakubo a revolutionary would be a gross understatement. The Japanese avant-gardist has crafted an entire universe that offers “comfort to the wearer and discomfort to the beholder.”
Since Kawakubo began designing under the COMME des GARÇONS label in 1969, the Japanese provocateur has developed a cult-like following. COMME des GARÇONS has inspired everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Marc Jacobs to worship at its altar and the label has launched the careers of everyone from Gosha Rubchsinskiy to Tao Kurihara to Junya Watanbe to Jacquemus. All the while, Kawakubo has emerged a notoriously press-shy and ever-mysterious priestess to her global flock of devotees.
Ahead of the hotly-anticipated Supreme x COMME des GARÇONS drop, we take an in-depth look at COMME des GARÇONS’ bewitching legacy so you can get to know why this fabled Japanese fashion giant is Supreme’s biggest and best collaborator to date.
So, soak your senses into the alchemy of COMME des GARÇONS’ shadowy oeuvre and uncover the many fashion feats that this revolutionary brand pulled first.
There were few fashion brands as revered and referenced as COMME des GARÇONS in the ‘90s, and always ahead of its time, the brand presented a new sartorial agenda of “gender bending androgyny” for its Spring/Summer 1995 show. In recent seasons, the critical narrative around gender and its politics have permeated the fashion industry at large. Binaries have been queered on runways from Paris to New York, from Gucci and Prada to Vetements and Hood By Air.
However, in 1995, COMME des GARÇONS staged a subversive sartorial showcase of new ideas titled “Transcending Gender” with a staunch point of view. “Spiritually, there are no more differences between men and women,” Kawakubo told Vogue post-show. “What is important is being human.”
At the height of the glam ‘90s fashion, this was a bold and brave move for COMME des GARÇONS. Kawakubo used tailoring to conceptually deconstruct gender, to reveal not just the beautiful bones of fashion, but also our bodies – stripped of its ideals, stigmas, conventions and rules. Female models were dressed in men’s clothes such as deconstructed suits and ties, but Kawakubo added plenty of frill to the mix, pairing layered ruffle skirts beneath suit jackets, all in an effort to probe the sexual politics of fashion, long before it was #hashtag trending.
COMME des GARÇONS has been probing the conceptual dialogue of anti-fashion well before Martin Margiela’s (largely considered the vanguard designer of deconstructivist fashion) debut in 1989. This particular collection, shown in Spring/Summer 1992, indulged all the charms of deconstructivist fashion – ornament, glamor, spectacle, illusion, and fantasy. Kawukubo told Vogue after the show; “I wanted to go back to the beginning and show that the finished product isn’t what’s interesting anymore,” she said. “When clothes are in the middle of construction, then there’s always the question of what comes next.”
Just six months after Marc Jacobs presented his iconic grunge parade for Perry Ellis — the collection that saw him fired from the brand — Rei Kawakubo quickly responded with her own vision of globalized grunge. ForCOMME des GARÇONS’ Fall 1993 collection, the lauded label sent out a flurry of flannels, florals, blanket patterns and sheer. It was a collection that solidified Kawakubo’s position as the deity of “deconstructivists” – a banner that evolved to encapsulate designers like Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester at the time.
Though punk has always been a recurring motif in COMME des GARÇONS’ winding trajectory, this was a solid grunge collection, with plenty of zeitgeisty staples like slip dresses and boxy, strained denim.
In this legendary New Yorker profile, Judith Thurman credits Red Kawakubo with inventing the black dress (as well as radically changing fashion as a whole). If you look back far enough through COMME des GARÇONS’ rich archive, you can trace an aesthetic thread that’s always underlined by an affinity for revolutionary noir.
The first time that COMME des GARÇONS really honed its raven aesthetic was with its now legendary 1982 ‘Destroy’ collection. It was an all-black collection that shook the fashion world to its core, and established Kawukbo’s pioneering spirit, although the French press condemned the collection as ‘Hiroshima chic’.
While radically political in its context, on a purely aesthetic level, this was a collection that set Kawaubo aside from her fashion peers, promoting her own sombre brand of beauty. Since then, the label has frequently rehashed the anti-color, and it’s been canonized by critics as “timeless”. For COMME des GARÇONS’ Spring 2009 collection, Kawakubo went back to black with some mathematical dexterity. The collection was a treatise of geometrical volumes, geodesic tops, and cocooning skirts, all exacted in a sheeny shade of black that you could just disappear into.
It was Kawakubo who first foresaw a “timeless” vision for monochrome, constantly working to reimagine black in new contexts. She once famously said; “I wanted to find tomorrow’s black.” It’s fair to say she definitely has.
Though notoriously press-shy, Kawakubo has blessed the world with a handful of interviews over the years. A 2008 profile published in Interview particularly stands out. Ronnie Cookie Newhouse asked Kawakubo: “Does creating around the human form put limitations on your work?” The Japanese designer offered an unsurprisingly nonconformist reply; “There are no limits.” Blunt yet effective.
COMME des GARÇONS daringly usurps convention, often with wild gestures that totally disavow the human form in its designs. The brand proved its deft hand at inflating garments to utterly surreal proportions in the aforementioned 1997 “Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress” collection.
It’s developed into something of a ritual for COMME des GARÇONS over the years too. Most recently, its Fall 2015 collection used copious amounts of material with an intricate yet complex delicacy and the result was sculpted silhouettes with an ornate appeal.
Similarly, the brand’s Fall 2017 was yet another thrilling spectacle. Using off-kilter materials like recycled waste alongside something as haute-y as black couture lace, the brand disabled expectations before sending out a flurry of looks with bulbously sculptural and totally outsized forms.
COMME des GARÇONS’ radical, and often unsettling vision for avant-garde fashion has always co-opted unusual volumes, over-sized proportions, and deconstructionist techniques as its signature. So, it’s no surprise that it was Kawukbo who also re-set the agenda when it came to aysmetrical steez back in the ‘90s.
The brand’s Spring 1997 collection titled “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” was yet another collection that thrashed fashion’s status quo. It harked back to the brand’s 1981 debut in Paris, with a collection that boasted plenty of silhouettes in beastly, ballooned shapes that shrouded the body.
In a contemporary era where statement-making fashion is de rigueur, it’s important to note that the ‘90s were a fashion era largely dominated by minimalism, glam, and grunge. Yet, time and time again, COMME des GARÇONS’ shied away from convention to offer new ideas of beauty to challenging the prevailing aesthetic conventions still based on the Western Renaissance conception of symmetry, balance, and perfection.
More than a decade and a half her Paris debut, Kawakubo sent out another game-changing collection, which critics referred to as the “lumps and bumps” show, featuring tubelike gingham dresses stuffed with lumpen filler resulting in sculpted and wholly deformed silhouettes. “It’s our job to question convention,” the Japanese designer told Vogue. “If we don’t take risks, then who will?”
The Pop-Up Shop
This isn’t a fashion trend specifically, but the pop-up shop has emerged as a bonafide industry movement over the last few years. From top-tier luxury brands to rising streetwear brands to music merch ventures – it’s a format that’s been wholly adopted by basically everyone.
But where did the idea for temporary retail come from? Well, the roots of the modern day pop-up can be traced back to, you guessed it, COMME des GARÇONS. The brand launched a guerrilla store in Berlin thirteen years ago, at a time where the pop-up was a rare beast. COMME des GARÇONS were particularly clear on their agenda too.
The label wanted to open shops in yet-to-be-gentrified areas for minimal cost, selling current and past merchandise. It was a total rejection of conventional retail formats that went on to radically change the face of retail. In the same year, CdG also launched the first branch of Dover Street Market, the freethinking fashion emporium that has also transformed retail.
We’ve written extensively about the legacy of the pop-up here.
Now you’re clued up, take another look at Supreme x COMME des GARÇONS’ latest collab.
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