Comme des Garçons by Rei Kawakubo has been credited as one of the best brands operating today, with its cutting edge designs that deconstruct and reconstruct the body, the pinnacle of Japanese fashion that has inspired so many in the West, and overall collections that looks more like art than actual clothes. Due to its conceptual, avant-garde nature, it makes sense that Comme des Garçons, on its own, is not profitable, just as is haute couture. There are only a few select people who not only afford, pull off, but also have a lifestyle in which wearing runway is suitable.
Just like many other high fashion houses, Kawakubo created diffusion lines, which are essentially sub-labels of the brand that produce more accessible clothing, both price wise and in terms of wearability, to sell to a wider array of customers and keep the brand afloat. While most brands will only have one or two diffusion lines, Comme des Garçons has more than 12 – and that’s without counting the “designed by”, accessories and perfume lines – and here are the ones you should know about.
Comme des Garçons Homme
When launched in 1969, the Japanese brand was strictly a womenswear line, it was both a surprise and a sensible move for Kawakubo’s first diffusion line, launched in 1978, to be dedicated to menswear. Directed by the designer’s own portégé Junya Wantanabe since 2003, who also happens to have his own diffusion line, Homme focuses on classic pieces, emphasising its attention to tailoring. Where Homme shines is in the details, which often includes Wantanabe’s classic patchwork style, intricate fabric use and specific dye treatments, offering men an easy entry way into the intricate mind of Kawakubo.
Comme des Garçons Homme Plus
If Homme offers a downplayed, sleek menswear of the brand, Homme Plus turns it all the way up, matching the OG brand’s eccentric aesthetic. Launched 6 years after Homme, Homme Plus holds bi-annual runway shows that fall under the same conceptual umbrella as Kawakubo’s vision for the main line, making it, out of all the diffusion lines, the purest extraction of her genius mind’s work, acting more so as a menswear version of the main womenswear runway line and less of an affordable diffusion line. Disproportionate suits, pieces slashed and re-assembled as well as garments that look like they belong in a museum more so than anywhere else, Homme Plus is a testament to Kawakubo’s commitment to menswear, which she stated in 1995 was where lies “the basics of clothing”.
Comme des Garçons Homme Deux
If Kawakubo’s dedication to menswear wasn’t stated enough yet, the 1987-born Homme Deux makes it crystal clear. A streamlined version of the previous menswear lines, Homme Deux essentially does menswear differently, challenging the status quo of what is considered men-focused clothing. Made with traditional Japanese techniques, the Homme Deux offering adds hints of Kawakubo’s wacky universe, in the form of wild patterns and comically-sized buttons.
Comme des Garçon Shirt
The title of this diffusion line already says it all: Comme des Garçons Shirt focuses on shirts. Launched in 1988, the line doesn’t just do regular shirts – it’s Kawakubo we’re talking about here. From classic button ups to tees, Shirt sees its items slashed at the bottom, revealing hidden fabrics and challenging shapes and proportions with pleats and graphics. While the line is called Shirt, and dedicates most of its output to exactly that, the line has also put out accessories like hats, shorts and sneakers, often seen in a matching pattern to its shirt alternative.
Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons
Also referred to as Comme Comme, Comme des Garçon Comme des Garçons is a womenswear-focused diffusion line that was created in the early 90s, but was created as the heir to Comme des Garçons Robe de Chambre, a 1981 diffusion line that was discontinued in 2004, when it merged with Comme Comme. This diffusion line is the womenswear equivalent of the Homme sub-label: a more accessible, wearable and affordable line that filters down Kawakubo’s vision.
Play Comme des Garçons
If there’s one thing from the design universe your non-fashion cousin has seen, it’s those Heart Converse shoes. By far its most successful and mainstream line, Play was launched in 2002 and sees Adrian Joffe, Kawakubo’s life and business partner and co-founder of Dover Street Market, at its helm. Best known for its heart logo designed by Polish artist Filip Pagowski, Play has been described by Joffe as the reverse of design, sticking to typical silhouettes that covers all sorts of basics from tees, hoodies to zip-ups and other accessories.
Comme des Garçons Black
Fashion is a mirror of our own society, and Comme des Garçons Black is a perfect example of this. Born during the 2008 recession, Black was initially created to serve its usual customer base whose earnings may be compromised during the economic crisis, with its price offering being 60% lower than its other diffusion lines. While Play may be the most popular, Black is the most affordable line which quickly made it one of the best selling lines and has now become an integral part of the ever-expanding universe.
Comme des Garçon is often referred to as CDG for ease, but CDG is actually a separate diffusion line, with its own specific focus. Also led by Joffe, CDG is said to be the internet-based brand of the universe, explaining the acronymized name and the heavy focus of playful graphics. Launched in the late 2010s, CDG is a sub-label born out of a previous project Joffe had dived into, the concept store Comme des Garçons Good Design Shop in collaboration with Japanese retailer Kenmei Nagaoka. By 2018, Good Design Shop had assimilated into DSM’s locations, and Joffe created CDG to fill the gap left for a younger market.
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