WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
Designer Rei Kawakubo’s umbrella of Comme des Garçons brands is often referred to as the CdG universe. However, we’ve recently concluded – after re-watching one of our favourite superhero flicks – the term ‘multiverse’ is a much more fitting way to describe the labyrinthine fashion house and its manifold sub-labels.
Each label within the Comme multiverse offers its own reality of the Japanese brand, shaping Kawakubo’s radical spirit in new and experimental ways; from the bourgeois narrative at play over at Comme des Garçons Homme Deux, to the logo-centric world of CDG.
So, to unravel it all, we’ve created a roadmap to direct you through the brand’s history, its many labels, and its most desirable collaborations.
The History of Comme des Garçons
What does Comme des Garçons mean?
As you will know — or at least have guessed — Comme des Garçons is a French term. Translated, the brand means “like boys”: a name inspired by Françoise Hardy’s 1962 track “Tous les garçons et les filles” (All the boys and the girls).
Who’s the founder of Comme des Garçons?
Rei Kawakubo is the trailblazing founder and designer of Comme des Garçons, and one of the most powerful women in fashion history. Born in Tokyo in 1942, Kawakubo studied Fine Arts and Literature at Keio University before starting her career in advertising (at a textiles company), and then later as a freelance stylist.
When did Comme des Garçons begin?
Kawakubo started designing clothes under the brand name Comme des Garçons in 1969, before officially establishing the company in 1971. To this day, the prolific designer oversees everything the brand produces.
When did Comme des Garçons become so popular?
From inception, Comme des Garçons proved popular with members of the beau monde, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the brand became a household name. Ever since, CdG has remained at the forefront of fashion and popular with people from all backgrounds – hence the multitude of sub-labels.
When was Comme des Garçons’ first fashion show?
Comme des Garçons debut runway show took place at Paris Fashion Week in 1981. Amazingly, Kawakubo’s first show wasn’t well received. In fact, critics went so far as to insult the Japanese designer’s first collection, especially for its “overuse of black”.
The Comme des Garçons Labels
There’s a label for everyone within the Comme des Garçons multiverse — discover each of them below.
Comme des Garçons
Launch Date: 1969 (officially 1971)
Comme des Garçons is – and always has been – disruptive, thought-provoking fashion with an avant-garde sensibility at its core. Kawakubo has channelled her norm-breaking ideologies into the brand since the 1970s, challenging perspectives of the industry (and beyond) using exaggerated silhouettes, clashing prints and conceptual, architectural aesthetics as her tools. Ergo, it’s fair to say the world of fashion would be a lot less groundbreaking without her.
Comme des Garçons Homme
Launch Date: 1978
To the delight of the sophisticated dandies of the 1970s, Kawakubo announced (circa 1978) that her first CdG diffusion line would focus on menswear – and be aptly titled Comme des Garçons Homme. The result was an inspiring collection of easy-to-wear pieces that offered dapper men a soft, conservative introduction to the mind of Kawakubo. Today, the designer’s protegé Junya Watanabe collaborates with her on the sub-label, producing collections that are an orthodox take on the Comme des Garçons discourse.
Comme des Garçons Homme Plus
Launch Date: 1984
In the CdG multiverse, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus is the gender-opposite parallel to Kawakubo’s wacky OG brand. A direct translation of the designer’s idiosyncratic vision from womenswear to menswear, Homme Plus offers deconstructed, outlandish fashion for the debonair peacocks of the world.
Comme des Garçons Homme Deux
Launch Date: 1987
Comme des Garçons Homme Deux is the preppy realisation of Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons; a label chiefly concerned with an old-school uniform of bourgeois blazers, schoolboy ties and structured trousers – crafted using traditional Japanese techniques. Its timeless appeal is a credit to Kawakubo’s multifaceted mind who reigns in her CdG fantasies for Deux to create sharp, streamlined designs.
Comme des Garçons SHIRT
Launch Date: 1988
Comme des Garçons SHIRT’s primary focus is on upgrading the staple items of a man’s wardrobe – including, unsurprisingly, the work shirt. Since 1988, Kawakubo has used her rebellious ideas to revitalise dull essentials for the style-savvy, creating one of the most popular brands in the CdG multiverse in the process.
Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons
Launch Date: 1993
Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons (a mouthful frequently shortened to CdG, CdG) is Kawakubo’s personal universe. The 1990s label reflects the designer’s distinctive style — viz. classic monochrome pieces reimagined using asymmetric cuts and intricate detailing — so much so, it’s rumoured to be the label she wears most often.
Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons
Launch Date: 1992
What do you get when you combine sharp tailoring, deconstructive design, patchwork and bondage leather? No, not a new season of American Horror Story. We’re talking about Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, of course. Once a humble patternmaker at Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe worked hard to follow in the steps of his mentor. Eventually, Watanabe was appointed head of the (discontinued) Comme des Garçons Tricot knitwear line before scoring his eponymous collection. Now, Watanabe’s forward-thinking womenswear brand is not only one of the most popular labels within the Comme des Garçons multiverse, but it’s also one of the most popular high-fashion brands in the world.
Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man
Launch Date: 2001
Junya Watanabe expanded his offering to menswear in the early 2000s, after his womenswear label proved a critical and commercial success. And, as one may expect with this being CdG, a separate label was set up, named Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man. Just like its womenswear counterpart, the progressive label is heavily reliant on patchwork techniques, tartans and the deconstruction of everyday silhouettes.
Play Comme des Garçons
Launch Date: 2002
Led by its iconic heart motif, Play CdG is the ubiquitous Kawakubo brand that’s just as famous as her original label. In this reality of Comme des Garçons, streetwear is the primary language. Basic items – such as short-sleeve and long-sleeve tees, zip-up and overhead hoodies, plus cardigans and sweatshirts – are created using high-quality cotton and adorned with the instantly recognisable logo designed by Filip Pagowski.
Comme des Garçons BLACK
Launch Date: 2008
Only Rei Kawakubo would be plucky enough to set up a new sub-label in a time of economic crisis, which is exactly what she did back in 2008. Focusing on a sneaker-like strategy, Comme des Garçons BLACK is a hypebeast’s CdG that creates hard-to-cop leisurewear pieces, predominantly fashioned in black and white (hence the title).
Comme des Garçons Girl
Launch Date: 2015
Comme des Garçons Girl is, as suggested by its name, Kawakubo’s uber-feminine take on the Comme des Garçons mindset. It’s an exploration of the sweet and flirty Comme des Garçons consumer: a woman who may romanticise her reality, but is still eccentric enough to relate to Kawakubo's approach to style.
Launch Date: 2018
Bold, sleek and youthful; CDG is a direct-to-consumer vehicle with logo-centric styles, and since the beginning, the label has relied on organic marketing to gain a cult-like following. If you’re wondering if Comme des Garçons’ youngest offering is as successful as its counterparts: let’s just say we haven’t attended a fashion week since 2018 without seeing at least one socialite wearing a piece from the collection.
Comme des Garçons PLAY x Converse
Fact: there’s no cooler Converse than the Comme des Garçons PLAY x Converse collaboration. The coveted Chuck Taylors are a premium take on the classic silhouette that reminds us all to have fun with fashion – especially with footwear.
Comme des Garçons SHIRT x Supreme x Vans
Aforementioned, Commes des Garçons SHIRT puts the focus on fundamental menswear items, which is why a collaboration with Vans makes total sense. In partnership with Supreme, CdG has been freshening-up the brand’s range of footwear with quintessential shirt prints and Supreme’s ‘BOGO’ since the early 2010s.
Comme des Garçons x Nike
When two sartorial powerhouses come together, the result is either trendsetting or forgettable. Fortunately, in the case of Comme des Garçons and Nike, it’s the former. From the jewel-festooned Nike Shox sneakers to the luminous pink Nike Air 180 pack; each silhouette is just as sought-after as the next. Which has us wondering: what’s next?