Cover image of the review
Comme des Garçons, *Blood and Roses*, spring–summer 2015, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Collection of Takamasa Takahashi, © Comme des Garçons.

Collecting Comme

2 Nov 2019
31 Oct - 26 Jul 2020

Rei Kawakubo's first Comme des Garçons show in Paris in April 1981 is now a legendary event in the history of fashion. Mounted unofficially at the Intercontinental Hotel during Prêt-à-Porter week and featuring just five models—she had not received the favour of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, which decided, like the French Academy the century before, who would show during fashion week and who would not—Kawakubo made her debut alongside Yohji Yamamoto, her romantic partner at the time.

Kawakubo had begun Comme in 1969 after studying Aesthetics at Keio University and then working as a freelance fashion stylist. Comme the label started and held its first shows in Tokyo in 1975. In 1979 Kawakubo famously decided on a change of direction for the label (that is when real aficionados locate the turning point) and then the whole world changed in 1981.

Comme des Garçons, Tokyo (fashion house, Rei Kawakubo (designer), Dress, gaiters and shoes 1981 (detail), Indigo Dye and Twist collection, spring–summer 1982. Collection of Takamasa Takahashi © Comme des Garçons

The show with Yamamoto was not an immediate success. The first French fashion writers did not react positively to the clothes and the haute couture designers and powerful institutional figures who made up the Chambre Syndicale exhibited no great enthusiasm and certainly no immediate desire to make Kawakubo a member herself.

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