Comme des Garçons has gleefully operated on the margins of the fashion industry for 40 years. Since showing her first collection in Paris in 1981, the industry’s press and buyers have become accustomed to Rei Kawakubo – the 71-year-old Japanese mastermind behind Comme des Garçons – and her regular and radical expressions of sheer otherness. Nothing, however, can prepare you for what’s next. That’s the whole point.
From ‘body-bump’ dresses (‘Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body’, Spring/Summer 1997) to mummified wedding gowns (‘White Drama’, Spring/Summer 2012), it comes as no surprise to discover Kawakubo is driven by a wanton – even stubborn – desire to create something new, something that further pushes the boundaries of what can be accepted as fashion.
Some of her premonitions have since become industry standards (guerrilla stores, artist collaborations…), while others (the tarmac, kerosene and smoke scented anti-fragrance), it’s safe to say, probably never will.
The voice of the designer has never been so important in disseminating brand values. Cynically put, he (or she) who shouts the loudest, gets heard the most. Yet whilst Kawakubo’s refusal to explain herself has often frustrated her public, her silence has given her voice more power and resonance than any fashion designer in the industry today.
The following conversation took place on Sunday, 29th September for System Magazine, between Hans Ulrich Obrist – himself an eminent curator and commentator operating in the art world – and Rei Kawakubo. The designer’s husband and Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe acted as interpreter.
Hans Ulrich Obrist: Was there an epiphany that caused you to start Comme des Garçons?
Adrian Joffe: She was a stylist at a magazine; she couldn’t find anything that she liked to photograph, so instead she decided to make it herself which is when she created her own company. There was no epiphany. She wishes she had one for you, but she doesn’t.
No. She doesn’t collect anything.
I met Azzedine Alaïa, and he has a whole hanger – it’s giant – full of stuff! It has his own archive but also the archives of other designers, books, art, objects. Do you have an archive?
No, she says she doesn’t like anything like that.
For her, they’re a burden. She says she has no desire for possessions. She doesn’t know why, but she’s never wanted to collect anything for as long as she can remember.
Last month I saw the Met exhibition in New York about punk – punk attitude and aesthetics. I was wondering if you saw it, and how you connect with punk – both now and before? Do you feel comfortable with this notion or label?
She likes the punk spirit. She’s always liked the spirit in the sense that it’s against the run of the mill, the normal way of doing things. That’s why she’s always felt an affinity with the punk spirit. She likes that word. Every collection is that. Punk is against flattery, and that’s what she likes about punk.
There’s an artist who says we can only understand someone if we know what kind of music he or she is listening to. What kind of music do you listen to?
Nothing in particular. All or nothing. What she likes to listen to when she has the choice to listen to something is jazz. She’s never said that to me before.
What about dreams? What is your dream of happiness?
She says she doesn’t need dreams.
Has the internet changed your working practice in anyway?
Something about internet is very different to the human mind. The human element is missing between fashion creation and the internet. That’s why she’s not interested in it. She thinks it can’t be translated. She doesn’t know whether it will take time before it happens, but at the moment she doesn’t think it’s happening or if it will ever happen.
What role do writing and drawing play in your working practice?
She doesn’t draw.
How does a normal day look?
It’s just constant work. She gets there early, stays late and just works. She also runs the company. She helps design the space. She does everything. She checks every single detail about everything for the company. So every day is taken up from morning to night with details, thought and work.
In art, one talks about the Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art: the artist does everything. I’m fascinated by that. I have the feeling that with you, it’s similar – every piece of paper, every item of stationery, every advertisement…
Advertising, interiors, decoration – everything.
How did the idea [for the guerrilla stores] come about?
Even in business, we need to find creative ways to do business. This was almost like a no-brainer. We had the stock, and we had these spaces with students who had nothing to do with fashion but wanted to work. So we moved the stock from our warehouse to those spaces. It was just a business idea to do business in a new way.
Rei, you play and confuse gender codes in both your men’s and women’s clothing. But is it true that Comme des Garçons staff can only wear collections associated with their gender?
No, that’s not true at all. People are free to buy and wear what they want. There are no rules. She never tells people how to wear, what to wear, why to wear.
Also your favourite colour is black, right? In an interview you once did, you said that maybe it’s a time for a new black, because everything is black.
That was a long time ago.
But do you think there is a new black?
It’s not exactly her favourite colour. It’s just the colour she feels is the strongest. It has nothing to do with whether she likes it or not, but she just feels that black is the strongest colour.Read more at:formal dresses
Michele Clapton is one of the most in-demand costume designers in the world right now. The British talent behind the Emmy-award winning wardrobing of Game of Thrones, was temporarily tempted away from that sprawling medieval mega-show to take on a tribe even more daunting even than The Wildlings — the Royal family.
She’s responsible for the sumptuous wardrobe in The Crown, the pounds 100 million drama on Netflix, the most expensive TV series ever made. Written by Andy Morgan and produced by Stephen Daldry, the first 10 episodes that is set to span decades, follows the House of Windsor from the mid-1930s, through the death of George VI and the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Reimaginings of public events are interlaced with fictitious private scenes brought to life by a cast including Claire Foy as the young Queen, Jared Harris as George VI, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.
Apart from providing the best (imagined) royal eavesdropping since The Squidgy Tapes, it is a lush and beautifully costumed visual feast. “I love these 10-part dramas because they give you a chance to really explore the stories in a way that film doesn’t,” says Clapton. “The BBC does a great job but its budgets don’t allow you to explore in the same way as Netflix or HBO.”
What portion of the massive budget she bagged for her department she won’t reveal, but certainly enough for the costumes to be one of the show’s big draws — particularly the looks worn by the Queen and Princess Margaret as they are portrayed in their twenties. The day before our interview Netflix threw a “salon show” in a venue not far from Buckingham Palace, where the costume designer talked through the princesses’ costume highlights.
Apart from the Queen’s wedding and Coronation gowns, most of the garments are inspired by rather than copies of clothes worn by the Queen and Margaret — which is why some eagle-eyed viewers may spot some inaccuracies. “But replicating everything would have been so dull,” says Clapton. “When it comes to finding the essence of someone, you look at their wardrobe, you look at what they might have worn and you then create the look without being really pedantic about it.”
The style of each woman reflects their different status and nature: Princess Margaret was more of an extrovert and a natural performer than her older sister and with a more minor role was able to be less conventional. “At the beginning of the show where they’re relatively close the costumes aren’t so different,” says Clapton. “But as the series develops you see how far apart they become. “Initially you only see the Queen totally at ease in her mac and her jodhpurs, driving a Land Rover,” says Clapton. “For the rest of the time I wanted her to look as though she’d been told to put these clothes on for her job. They’re meant to look as if they’d only had one fitting, because that’s all she would have had time for. But Margaret’s dresses have had two or three — the waist is tighter, the skirt is fuller. She could do that because she had the space and time to be a fashion icon.”
As the Queen settles into her reign she moves into what Clapton calls “the uniform dresses” — traditional styles, in blues or pinks. “It’s the idea that once she was confronted with meetings with Churchill and men of stature — and often the only woman in the room — she wore things she didn’t have to think about. It was feminine but it almost hid her, like an armour.”
That’s not to say that Claire Foy’s Elizabeth looks dowdy. In the early years of her marriage and coronation we see through her breezy full-skirted dresses and colours, just how astonishingly young a monarch she is — just 25 when she ascended the throne. “She’s safe and neat but I wanted that freshness,” says Clapton. “In one scene she finds out there are 100 dresses for the 1953 Commonwealth tour and she’s amazed. But they were selling the New Look Britain. Suddenly they had this new young queen. It was such a vehicle for Britain to show London style.”
But it is with Princess Margaret, that Clapton was able to go to town. She’s seen in confident, feminine fashion — whether it’s a one-shouldered pink gown when telling her sister that she’s engaged to Group Captain Peter Townsend, or a sharp pencil skirt and a satiny blouse as she’s flirting on the phone to him, or lounging in a pair of fabulous silk pyjamas. “With Margaret I tried to be a bit more sophisticated, so I put mauves with mink and used a bit of Brutalist print. I wanted to show what was going on in architecture, what was happening in Soho.” One of her favourite looks is a dramatic mackintosh with upturned collar that Margaret wears with movie star sunglasses after Townsend is virtually exiled from the country (their marriage was forbidden as he was a divorce).
“I love that even then she’s playing for an audience: ‘This is me being devastated’.” Portraying other characters was almost as much fun. “We had to make a fat suit for Victoria Hamilton who plays the Queen Mother and another one for John Lithgow to try and create the extraordinary hunched shape of Winston Churchill.”
But Clapton, who is back at Game of Thrones, didn’t feel any trepidation about helping to portray real people. “It’s a very complex, well-written piece that I don’t think is disrespectful,” she says. “It just asks some questions. Who knows if we’re right but in terms of story it’s very empathetic. I think it’s a great PR job for the Queen, actually.”Read more at:bridesmaid dresses
A Shippagan, N.B., designer launched a fashion line last weekend to help raise funds for a domestic violence charity.
Lyne Chantal Boudreau debuted Bibilyn Designs, a clothing line of made-to-measure, custom-made designs for women, at the World Wine and Food Expo in Moncton.
Expo president Bill Vance asked Boudreau to make eight dresses for the event. They were featured on the posters for the expo and two were auctioned off.
Support for victims of family violence
A portion of the profits made on each piece goes to the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation, a New Brunswick organization with the goal of "preventing and eliminating family violence."
"I have this charity very near [to my heart]. For me, it's very very important to eliminate all those kinds of violence against women and children," Boudreau said.
Boudreau, who is a university researcher and professor at the Université de Moncton campus in Shippagan, said she has been closely affected by family violence, although she did not want to discuss details.
She began developing her designs in 2014 when she noticed it was hard to find exclusive pieces while shopping for clothes.
"I had always been involved in the community. That's where the idea to create an exclusive dress for each woman came from, because each woman is unique and different," said Boudreau.
"I wanted to give back some self-esteem to those women, to believe in their potential...it's also about giving women a bit of control back in their lives," she told CBC in a French interview.
The designer's cat, Bibi, serves as the brand's mascot.
Boudreau said she and her daughter rescued the cat seven years ago during "a difficult period" in her family's life.
"In his own way, he saved [our lives], so I wanted to pay tribute to him."
Challenges as a francophone designer
Boudreau, who designed her own wedding dress and maternity wear, sketches the designs and contracts a team of seamstresses to make them.
"The challenges are many as a female francophone designer in New Brunswick. For example, how do you find high enough quality products to make made-to-measure designer dresses? I have to leave the province in order to get the elements I need to build this company," she said.
She said starting her business was not easy and she hopes to one day serve as a mentor to other women wishing to become entrepreneurs.
Looking ahead, Boudreau said she has begun a collection for young girls, with two dresses already made.Read more at:marieaustralia