Comme des Garçons: A Brief History

There is almost no surviving the test of time in fashion. While a handful of names (almost all European) are alive and well in ripe old age, those brands at their heart are first and foremost smart businesses: they trade skillfully on heritage and aspiration while constantly evolving to fit changing tastes. Almost none continue to push the envelope, to be the changing taste (not just keep up with it) decades after their foundings.

Rei Kawakubo’s relentlessly innovative Comme des Garçons—started in earnest in 1969, incorporated in 1973, and first shown in Paris in 1981—is perhaps the greatest single exception to this rule. While the likes of Prada, or maybe Margiela, can lay claim to a pretty solid legacy of innovation, neither has remained so consistently relevant both to fashion and art over the years. The brand is not one ounce middle of the road: even the most wearable pieces in its diffusion lines like Comme des Garçons SHIRT are always delightfully off-kilter, from fragrances that can politely be described as acquired tastes to exaggerated silhouettes, oddly-placed logos, and counterintuitive textile choices. Still, there’s always something cheekily utilitarian in them—some healthy dose of Japanese practicality to render the pieces endearing and useful. You can wear and carry a Comme des Garçons piece season after season, and it never feels wrong.

Volumes have been written about the inimitable brand and its founder, so much so that our usual “A Brief History” format seems like far too small a forum on which to even scratch the surface. Profiles on Kawakubo aren’t uncommon in publications that focus little on fashion (recommended reading from a 2005 issue of The New Yorker). The tome Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic wrote in the early 1990s is nearly impossible to come by and now regularly sells for more than $100 in paperback.

Whether on the runway or the street, in print or through their groundbreaking Dover Street Market stores, the 46-year old brand is more relevant than ever. We’re very happy to welcome our first shipment from Comme des Garçons WALLET this week.

Below are a few of our favorite CDG print ads from over the years, including one from Cindy Sherman and a couple from the still epic “Paper Surgery” series by Steven Shanabrook, none of which, incidentally, are included in this piece from our friends at Complex on the 25 most awesome Comme des Garçons ads. Way too many to choose from.

All images expressly copyright © Comme des Garçons


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