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Comme des Garçons hits the high street  

2008-10-30 11:16:41|  分类: 一句话文摘 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Comme des Garccedil;ons hits the high street - 月之海 - 月之海/Anderson JW

Comme des Garçons has always stood for pioneeringfashion. But how will the label reinterpret its ethos for thehigh-street giant H&M? Susannah Frankel gets asneak preview(Selected from Independent)

 

"A little bad taste is like a splash of paprika,"the fashion legend Diana Vreeland once said. "We all need a splashof bad taste – it's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical."

The Comme des Garçons designer, Rei Kawakubo, basedher current collection on Ms Vreeland's famous maxim. And rightnow, that seems significant – given an autumn season that will godown in history as promoting a sense of propriety almost to thepoint of outright banality. After all, Kawakubo doesn't dobanal.

And so, six months ago, the high-priestess of theavant-garde sent out on to the catwalks lipstick pink and redvelvet coats and dresses out of which were cut oversized, frillylips and hearts, and frothy white tulle playsuits embellished withfetishistic black harnessing. There were crotchless schoolboyshorts, too – where, in less witty hands, one might have expectedknickers; corsetry, complete with keyholes at the nipples, wornover shirts; and stockings and suspenders teamed with thick blackopaque tights. Pick a feminine fashion cliché, any feminine fashioncliché, and it was there. That might not be so surprising exceptthat, throughout her long and grand career, Kawakubo has foughtagainst stating the obvious and eroticising the female form in astereotypical way, as if her career depended upon it.

"I played with notions of bad taste and then didthem the Comme des Garçons way," Kawakubo says when pressed – sheis notoriously a woman of very few words preferring her work tospeak for itself. "Of course, bad taste done by Comme des Garçonsbecomes good taste."

To say that the Comme des Garçons' look ischallenging would be something of an understatement. Although morethan a few fashion followers have already been seen wearing themore conservative pieces from this particular collection –principally, it almost goes without saying, in black – only themost fashion-knowledgeable are brave enough to dare to wearKawakubo's more extreme designs. Not that that appears to bothertheir creator even slightly. Why should she worry? She has longused her main line collection as a vehicle to create and promoteher most radical ideas. Those looking for wardrobe staples willfind them with ease in the second line, called Comme des GarçonsComme des Garçons, which is more quietly beautiful and also,incidentally, forms the backbone of the designer's own personalstyle.

Meanwhile, Comme devotees will be delighted todiscover that next month the high-street giant H&Munveils the fruits of the most innovative designer/high-streetcollaboration to date. For years, the powers that be at the Swedishbrand have endeavoured to persuade Kawakubo to come on board. Andnow she has done. Expect queues of black-clad consumers, male andfemale, stretching round a block near you when the collection islaunched in November. More than any of the retailer's past link-ups– and these include Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor& Rolf – the H&M/Comme des Garçonscollection will cause ripples, both of excitement and perhapsconfusion.

"Rei Kawakubo has always been at the top of ourwish list," says Margareta van den Bosch, creative director ofH&M. "This collaboration will offer our customersmodern, innovative and artistic fashion not following anyrules."

It is true that more than any other designerKawakubo is a rule breaker par excellence. What is perhaps moresurprising, though, is that the H&M collection is,in fact, remarkable for its sobriety, for the relatively classicnature of the clothing that dominates throughout.

To pigeon-hole Kawakubo as a designer of pioneeringyet unreadable and difficult-to-wear clothing would be tomisunderstand the breadth of her vision and vocabulary entirely.While it is certainly true that she continues to push at theboundaries of women's – and men's – codes of dress, she has alsocreated a wardrobe for both sexes that is both chic and deceptivelysimple, quietly subversive yet with its roots in quite conservativeattire.

From this point of view, the H&Mcollection represents the quintessentially elegant and pure spiritof what Comme des Garçons stands for. And so, for women, sunraypleat skirts and kilts – a signature of this designer's repertoiresince she first showed in Paris back in 1981 – take centre stageand so too do trousers inspired by the Asian dhoti line, with acrotch dropped almost to the ankle in black gabardine. Kawakuboherself wears these particularly well. Tail coats, crisp whiteshirts with winsome Peter Pan collars and a trench coat that would,quite simply, be impossible to better, are all also part of thestory. Prints are simple: polka dots, which Kawakubo rememberswearing as a child growing up in Tokyo, are all present andcorrect. Boiled wool, which Kawakubo was single-handedlyresponsible for introducing to the fashion vernacular, and flatshoes – in canvas and polka-dotted again or plain – are equally alltime-honoured staples of the Comme des Garçons style.

For her part, Kawakubo says, "I was interested inselling Comme des Garçons in a new place where it has never beensold before and to people who may never have heard of it. Usually,Comme des Garçons only sells in places where people who understandit go."

For all its relative conservatism, thiscollaboration remains far from ordinary. There are none of theflesh-flashing, cheap little dresses and skinny-jeans-and-T-shirtcombinations the high street is famous for peddling. Neither is thecollection even remotely trend-led. If the mood chimes inaccordance with a covered-up austerity that is of the moment, thenthat is pure coincidence. Kawakubo pays lip service to ephemeralaspects of fashion, to be sure, but only ever really to poke fun atthem or to twist them to the point where they are barelyrecognisable.

"The collection is constructed around Comme desGarçons' style," Kawakubo continues. "Rather than aiming to makeclothes that no one has ever seen before, it is very much Comme desGarçons goes [back] to its roots."

Those roots decree that many womenswear pieces areinspired by menswear; that black and white are the fashion coloursto see and be seen wearing; that clothing should be dignified andcomfortable and should envelop the body; and that women should beable to run in their shoes. They also propose that fashion shouldunder no circumstances be overtly status driven. The Comme desGarçons for H&M bag, for example, is a canvashold-all bearing no signage and not even a trace of hardware, whichwill doubtless come as something of a relief to all those whosehandbags are by now so oversized and heavy that regular visits tothe chiropractor have rarely seemed so fashionable.

The danger with any designer-high streetcollaboration is, of course, that it might detract from the mainevent, causing customers to buy into the more reasonably pricedline at the expense of the original that inspired it. By revertingto classic pieces, Kawakubo has ensured that this will not be thecase. In fact, it is more likely that by working withH&M she will bring a whole new customer into herown, more rarefied fold.

"The first objective of high-street fashion is thatit sells," says Kawakubo. "Designer fashion is more about newcreation. In some respects, the high street represents the bad sideof democracy, the lowest common denominator, but it certainlyappeals to me that many people may be able to discover Comme desGarçons through H&M."

Van den Bosch echoes these sentiments at least inpart. "With every new collaboration we attract a new customer," shesays, "but the H&M customer is extremely diverseand we have already many fans."

Even she has to admit, however, that this work ismore confrontational, if only discreetly so, than the vast majorityof clothing available on the high street. "Rei Kawakubo is one ofthe most artistic fashion creators with an interesting, veryindependent approach to fashion," she says. "In the end, our aimwas to do something new, to surprise our customers and to make apoint that fashion is not a matter of price."

"Now is a time when we are surrounded by and caughtup in a money-centred place, where independence and creation are abit lost," Kawakubo in turn concludes. "It's the result of thedilution of values which decrees that as long as something is easyand simple, it's OK and one can get away without thinking too muchabout anything. Of course, I have never been motivated in that way,which is why it is interesting for me to do this. I have neverconcerned myself with what people think. I just work with what Imyself think is fascinating, strong and new."

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