Comme des Garcons is a fashion label that was founded in Tokyo, Japan. It is headed by Rei Kawakubo, who owns the company with her husband Adrian Joffe. Rei Kawakubo is an untrained designer who studied fine arts and literature at Keio University. After she graduated she began working for a textile company and shortly after became a freelance designer. In 1973, she established her own company Comme des Garcons Co. Ltd and opened a boutique. At first it was clothing only for women but three years later she added men’s line.
It became very successful in Japan and in 1980 Comme des Garcons had its own show in Paris, France and immediately attracted public by its predominant use of black and distressed fabrics. Comme des Garcons specializes in anti-fashion and deconstructed fabrics. During 1980 the garments were usually black, dark grey or white. The clothing was often wrapped around the body, had unfinished edges and asymmetrical shape. Commes des Garcons was a popular line that often took on the notion of color and sex-appeal in clothing, as had Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto during the same time period.
Eventually, the line would introduce more colors and styles, but not on the same scale as its American and European counterparts. Additionally, in 1994 Comme des Garcons released its own fragrance. Their perfume is truly a unique product. What makes them so special is the scent, which is blended with scents that are usually not common for perfumes. Most of the perfumes have the hints of flowers or chocolate but not Comme des Garcons. Their first fragrance that was self-titled had hints of nail polish, burnt rubber and sand dunes. This is what makes these fragrances stand out from the crowd of other brands.
It cannot be mistaken for any other perfume on the market. This is the part of its allure, which creates the sense of individuality on anyone who wears it. The majority of Comme des Garcons fragrances have scents that no one would think of wearing, but the blend overall creates a whole different scent that has made it famous. Rei Kawakubo has made an interesting comment about the perfume: “It shouldn’t be necessary to pick a flower or a fruit or to disturb any organic material. ” For example, Comme des Garcons Odeur 53, a fragrance composed of 53 entirely synthetic smells, including burnt rubber and laundry hanging on a clothing rack.
The packaging of the perfume totally reflects the smell. It is large, cold and clear. Rei Kawakubo mentioned that she wants a bottle be as big as all outdoors because that’s exactly what the fragrance is. The bottle is square which doesn’t look like something special at all but it looks very elegant and structural at the same time. You have to grab the bottle with two hands and it is very “Here comes the scent! ”. Comme des Garcons have collaborated with a variety of international brands including Nike, Speedo, Lacoste, Fred Perry, Chrome Hearts, Levi’s, Louis Vuitton.
In addition Comme des Garcons created a line for H&M, which was released in 2008. Comme des Garcons collections are designed in the studio in Aoyama, Tokyo and are made in Japan, France, Spain and Turkey. The company has its studio in Tokyo as well as in Paris in the prestigeous Place Vendome. Since 2004 Comme des Garcons have developed a market based department store concept, stocking their main collections, their other brands, such as Shirt and Play and a wide range of international designers, their original market store called Dover Street Market is in Mayfair in London.
In 2010 they opened I. T Beijing Market Comme des Garcons, which will be followed by a new market store in Ginza, Tokyo in 2011. Comme des Garcons is a very popular and successful brand among all its customer segments. They have variable designs which are applicable to basically everyone. What makes the shopping experience special at Comme des Garcons is their stores. Signature boutiques are located in London (Dover Street Market), Paris, New York City, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, St. Petersburg, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka.
What makes the shopping experience different than at the other stores I will give an example of their store in New York City located on West 22 Street in Chelsea. At first there will be a problem in finding the entrance as it is well hidden among the usual scenery of dull brick walls but when you finally find the entrance you start wondering whether it is an actual store or somehow you have made a mistake. The catch is that from outside it looks nothing special but as soon as the door opens a customer is overwhelmed by the unique design of the entrance.
At first what might look like a space-like cylinder-shaped tunnel is actually an entrance that leads to the store. It has the silver color and creates a unique experience for a shopper and creates a feeling of ‘one minute surprise’. It actually looks more like an artwork in the museum of modern art and that is what makes the shopping experience at Comme des Garcons so interesting and different from other stores. They have used a very successful sensory design, combining odd shapes, simple colors, simple layouts so that it will all look holistic.
Inside of the store, the positioning of clothing is very simple, there are not too many things on the hangers and on the shelves but not too less at the same time. It creates a feeling of spatial balance, so the customer will not feel overwhelmed with all of the clothing that he or she has to look through. Comme des Garcons store designs are famous all over the world. Another good example of the sensory design is the store in Paris. Rei Kawakubo has chosen red color for her Comme des Garsons shop.
White shell in an historic structure, red molded fiberglass glares and pulses off the walls, often curving onto the ceiling, only to reappear as display furniture in this “new building within an old building”. Public have always been surprised by Kawakubo’s designs and have contradicted it and this space designed in collaboration with Takao Kawasaki and Paris’ Architecture Associes is no exception. Despite of the store’s catchy and attention demanding hues it is completely hidden from the street. When a customer enters a long corridor that empties into a courtyard.
Once there, any clues of the store’s existence are vanishing to the rectangles of red visible through exterior windows, in fact, the back of an interior fiber glass wall, a red sliding door that serves the shop’s entrance and importantly a pavilion. The pavilion is a completely small and separate room located across the courtyard from the main retail space. The design of the store gives a feeling of contemplation – free of products, food and drink- with mechanically mobile cubic seats that gently revolve and floor to ceiling fiberglass.
The red interior of the store symbolizes the heart and the essence of the store, which any customer can feel upon the entrance. The use of red gives a warm and a strong feeling, it is a great clarifier – bright, cleansing and revealing, it makes other colors stand out and look beautiful. After looking into the designs of Comme des Garcons two stores in Paris and New York we can notice some similarities although they are absolutely different. Rei Kawakubo incorporates large empty spaces with bright or transparent colors and that creates the effect of something other than a retail store.
It is not a usual shopping experience anymore and people love it, they love that such a great experience comes with nice and fashionable clothing. Comme des Garcons has multiple lines, Play is one of the most famous and successful. The concept of the play brand is design by not designing. A collection of basis items that don’t have to be new (the exact opposite of Comme des Garcons’ values). Through the strength of iconic character logo, play brand has a strong personality without the burden of design. Accordingly, play perfume uses extremely simple and classic ingredients with typical Comme des Garcons construction.
The packaging uses a standard bottle and a prototypal cardboard box. The goal of Play brand is simplicity, the more simple it is, the better. The brand includes an abstract heart with eyes. It is an interesting image that immediately recognizable and attention demanding. On my own example I can say that this is a very successful use of imagery because it quickly gets in your head and next time you will see this heart somewhere on a shirt, shoes or jacket, you will instantly know that this is Comme des Garcons Play.
It is important for a brand to be easily recognizable so that the customers will develop a brand loyalty. As to Comme des Garcons line I do not think it is successful because of the lack of something to remember it by, but the Play brand is more affluent. Usually the heart is red with white eyes, this gives a feeling of personality. They use it on their shirts, shoes and perfume, sometimes even in graffiti.